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Technical Death Metal w/ a Healthy Shot of Melody - 88%

tektryk, June 29th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2006, CD, Willowtip Records

Technical death metal is an interesting beast. Full of virtuosic riffing, complex time signatures, and frenetic songwriting, it can be a tough genre to appreciate beyond the obvious skill involved. Too often, albums by technical death metal bands tend to be exercises in ability rather than listenable records (see Viraemia or Rings of Saturn for recent examples). France’s Gorod took a different route with their 2006 record Leading Vision. Fusing absurd levels of proficiency with hefty doses of melody and at least one ‘earworm’ per song, Leading Vision stands out as one of the most listenable and entertaining albums to come from the filigreed depths of technical death metal.

“Here Die Your Gods” serves as an introduction to Gorod’s amalgam of spiral guitar riffs and punchy songwriting structure. Nothing stands still as the concept of ‘riffing’ is stretched to its absolute bounds; the sheer volume of notes would strain even the most talented transcriber. But for all its technical splendor, “Here Die Your Gods” maintains a melodic element that keeps the listener engaged. You can tap your foot, more or less, in time with the rhythm even as your fingers vainly try to air guitar along to the aural insanity. Specific sections are too numerous to name, but “Chronicle From The Stone Age” and “State Of Secret” are perhaps the best examples of Gorod’s songwriting ethos. Arnaud Pontaco and Mathieu Pascal have crafted ten songs of varying identities, replete with a lifetime’s worth of ideas. From the eerie harmonizing of “Edaenia 2312” to the acoustic outro of “Hidden Genocide”, there is much to hear and, fruitlessly attempt to, hum.

For an album filled to the brim with aggressive growling and song titles like “Life Controller” and “Hidden Genocide” there is a lightness to the production that keeps proceedings upbeat, even when the music is trying to draw you to the dark. “Obsequium Minaris” has a gritty, doom-esque feel to much of the riffing, but the crisp tone of the guitars and the flat tone of the drumming prevent the song from dragging the listener down. It’s a neat trick, and it wouldn't take much to convince me that groups such as Obscura and The Faceless referred to Leading Vision as an example for the mixing and mastering of their own work.

Lyrically and vocally, Leading Vision falls shortest. Granted, it’s nearly a contradiction in terms to listen to technical death metal with the expectation of the vocalist being the strongest component, but it’s not impossible (just look at Spawn of Possession or, to stick within the genre if not the style, early Cryptopsy). Gorod’s singer Guillaume Martinot performs admirably, occasionally utilizing a higher shriek to punctuate what would otherwise be a monotone mid-level bark. But it’s this lack of variety that keeps Leading Vision from ascending from great record to ‘ambassador of the genre’. The bottom end of this record shines more than most metal albums. Benoit Claus’ bass and Sandrine’s drums keep pace, time, and energy with the sonic whirlwind swirling above them. There aren’t many female drummers in metal, and, while she’s no longer with the group, Sandrine’s performance is made all the more impressive by the fact that she doesn’t rely on the start/stop blast beats so common to the genre; nuanced playing, heavy cymbal work, and the occasional breakneck tempo shift mark her contribution as something special.

Leading Vision is an excellent album, and while not indicative of technical death metal as a genre, has certainly earned its place as one of the best albums to come out of the French metal scene. Both too melodic and too full of fretboard acrobatics to be easily classified as either melodic death metal or technical death metal, Gorod forged their own path, one that served as a blueprint, for better or worse, for much of the current metalcore/deathcore that has abandoned simple Slaughter Of The Soul worship. Full of exciting riffs, scorching solos, and even the occasional aural curveball, Leading Vision has held up well in the near decade since its release. Gorod has yet to surpass Leading Vision's quality, but with rumors of a new record in the works, now is the perfect time to remember why you should get excited anyway.

Highlights:
"Blackout"
"Chronicle From The Stone Age"
"State Of Secret"