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Good Album Except for the Vocals - 72%

TheStormIRide, December 6th, 2013

Erie, Pennsylvania is an area known for snow; lake effect snow to be exact, which means if it snows two inches in central Pennsylvania, it snows at least a foot in Erie (my math may be exaggerated). In the summer, the area surrounding Erie (notably the Presque Isle area) is remarkably serene and picturesque. Apparently Extinction Protocol, who formed in 2011, forgot that Erie's menacing winds and brutally cold winter's do let up for a few months out of the year, because their debut album, Aeonic Obliteration, is harsh, blasting and furious; not unlike Erie winters. This album is available digitally and in a limited run of one thousand hand-numbered digipak CD's through P2 Records.

The band describes their music as old-school death metal merging with the ultra-brutal soundscapes of slam, which I'd say is a fairly apt description. While the production does have a somewhat old school feel to it, the music is way too technical to just be described as old school death metal and it seems more like brutal death metal with occasional slams and technical forays. Rather than the typical gore and death obsession, Extinction Protocol utilizes science fiction themes revolving around destruction and catastrophe, which is a welcome change of pace. The guitars are thick but suffer from being washed out by the drums throughout the release. The bass loud and in your face but it doesn't have that bouncy almost comedic feel that many brutal death metal bands seem to employ. The drums sound mechanical and triggered as hell, but they are forceful and driving. The production isn't terrible but the guitars could use a little more prominence. The album starts of with a chugging, pummeling behemoth of a track in “The Merging of Titans”, which showcases warp speed tremolo riffs amidst chugging palm muting and blasting drums which really only let up when the album is over. While not overtly technical, the members of Extinction Protocol are more than proficient. Tracks like “Heir to an Apocalypse” switch from intense blasting and trem riffing into a face melting slam and back again without so much as a hiccup. The band pretty much has two gears: ultra-fast blasting and rhythmic, pummeling slams. “Unraveling the Human Aether” shows the band's rhythmic caveman slams alongside a pulsing double bass rhythm which is guaranteed to make you bang your head. Really, though, it's the band's ability to switch gears from blasts and trem riffing into these slams and back again without silly bass interludes and whatnot.

While I really dig the musical style of Extinction Protocol, they leave me more than underwhelmed with the vocals. For the most part the vocals are deep, gurgling grunts with little to no identity of their own. Worse than the monotonous grunts are the utterly abysmal pig squeals throughout the album. It's like every time the band goes into some form of slamming brutal death metal, the vocalist starts squealing like it's time for the Christmas ham to go in the oven. I really don't mind super guttural vocals, hell, I even dig Mortician, but Extinction Protocol leaves me cold on this one. Honestly, listen to the freaking squelched squealing on “Engineering the Nemesis”, as it sounds worse than the booths at the county fair. A couple of tracks, such as “As Life Turns to Ash” and “Arrival of the Black Sun”, eschew the squealing and grunts and go for a more direct gravelly scream, which is more typical to blackened death metal bands and it's a welcome freaking change, let me tell you. An album full of gurgling pig squeals can get very old if that's all your offering: it's even worse if you don't like pig squeals (raises hand).

The band plays pretty top notch brutal death metal with some precise rhythms and knuckle dragging caveman slams, so it's sad to see them piss it all away with shoddy vocals. Ditch the pig squeals guys, it doesn't sound good. I wanted to hear pigs I'd move to a farm. This is solid blasting brutal death metal with proficient technicality and frequent trips into skull smashing slams. Perhaps this would be more devastating with a more powerful mix, but it's still killer. I'd recommend this more if the vocals were better, but they're not. Nonetheless, Aeonic Obliteration is a solid debut album that will still crush your skull, just try not to pay attention to the vocals.

Written for The Metal Observer: