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Interesting but forgettable. - 75%

hexen, March 12th, 2015

I have been a fan of Hannes Grossmann ever since the classic Necrophagist record 'Epitaph', and having since departed that band - Hannes' career has been quite remarkable. How the pendulum of life swings - while Necrophagist have largely remained invisible since 2011, Hannes went on to join Obscura and helped write two incredible records, toured with Death and plays for technical metal wizards Blotted Science.

When I heard Hannes was trying to fund a record on Indiegogo, I bought it immediately. Grossmann's CV is an enviable collection of virtuosic extreme metal, he someone who has effectively help bridge the gap between progressive music and death metal. So how could this record not disappoint? The answer to this question lies in how the album was marketed. According to Grossmann, this album was written for an Obscura record - the twist being that Obscura (in particular, Steffen Kummerer) wished for a more democratic approach to songwriting - prompting Hannes to DYI the entire project. However, isn't it somewhat curious that a drummer had written 8 full length death metal songs himself?

Therein lies the problem. While this is a very respectable effort on Mr. Grossmann's part, I cannot exclaim that this is the finest record he's ever been a part of. In fact, the songs on this album are incredibly inconsistent, much like a sine wave - they range from energetic, highly intense death metal peaks to engineered and unenthusiastically boring troughs. Songs like 'Aeon Illuminate', 'Solar Fire Cells' and "Radial Covenant I & II' definitely capture quintessential Grossmann style songwriting, but unfortunately every other song is practically forgettable.

I do not mean to deemphasize the effort it took to record this album, Grossmann has done a great amount of work and is without doubt an incredible songwriter. The general song structures on this record are very interesting, and in hindsight, what he learned from writing these songs could have potentially catapulted him into leaving Obscura and joining Morean to form his own band, Alkaloid.

However, the rhythm guitar sections are just too weak and far too timid to make for an enjoyable listen. Death metal is ultimately about the guitar riffs - and Grossmann, being an educated drummer, still cannot write like Muenzner, Kummerer, Jarzombek, Suicmez or any of the other guitarists he has played with. His eccentric approach to writing riffs - some range of floridian death metal sounding chords, bizarre AxeFX noodles and empty passages that focus on the percussive effect of the drumming - inherently take out the most enjoyable aspects of an extreme record. One exception to this shortcoming is the song 'Aeon Illuminate', which is also the most Obscura sounding song on the entire record.

Well at least the record is a true death metal album , it features a host of exceptional guitarists (from long time collaborator Christian Muenzner to Jeff Loomis and Rob Jarzombek) - it also has Linus Klausenitzer on bass and mastermind Florian Magnus Maier (aka Morean) on vocals and some rhythm guitar parts. Fans of Obscura won't find the same level of brilliance, but this record sincerely does sound like a less melodic, watered down imitation of them. Overall, I am happy I supported the album and do pick it up from time to time, but I cannot say it will be an overly memorable record for me.

Thank you based god for this album - 93%

PhillCantu93, June 19th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, Digital, Independent

When it comes to solo albums, popular thought usually gravitates towards the many vocalists who write scores of lyrics (and sometimes music) for their own purposes, or guitarists who compose their own original music over which to play blazing guitar solos and epic melodies. If you ask someone to name a drummer with a solo album, however, most will scratch their heads in utter confusion, and those who are particularly cultured in music might mention Ringo Starr and/or Peter Criss. In the metal world, such an album would be almost unthinkable; most people were blown away by the fact that Evan Brewer, a bassist, came out with his own solo albums, because like I mentioned above, the prospect of releasing a solo album is almost strictly confined to singers and guitar players. This is precisely why I was stoked to see Hannes Grossmann - not only one of my favorite drummers, but also one of my favorite musicians of all time for any genre of music - announce that he would be working on his own solo album, The Radial Covenant.

Why would he do this? Well, Hannes is one of the main songwriters for his band Obscura, a band with a very democratic method of composing music as a whole band as opposed to one-off songs written entirely by one guy. He explained in several videos that he decided he wanted no compromise in composing music originally written for Obscura, so he figured he would take the DIY approach and release his unfettered creative vision as a solo album. Whilst he wrote all of the music, he recorded drums and rhythm guitar (as well as one guitar solo on the song Aeon Illuminate), providing the skeletons of the songs, leaving the rest to various guest musicians who would record tracks for their respective instruments.

The result is an extremely dynamic listening experience. As a drummer, Hannes Grossmann churns out blisteringly-fast blast beats and double bass in several sections that are contrasted by simple but catchy grooves; you can very easily hear his passion for rhythm in songs like Aeon Illuminate and Alien Utopia, both loaded with ups and downs, odd-time signatures, and drum beats that will get stuck in your head for days. Likewise, as a composer (and a surprisingly decent guitar player, something he's never done for an official studio album before), Hannes fills his guitar riffs with technical wizardry, catchy riffs that fit PERFECTLY with the drums (the intro to Alien Utopia is the pinnacle of this), progressive songwriting that adds atmosphere and dynamics to the feeling of the music, and epic melodies, all ripe with classical and jazz influence as well as Hannes's own brand of weird but creative imagination.

As for the other musicians: the vocals sound like something Obscura would do for their Omnivium album, ranging from deep growls to raspy screams, to ghastly and haunting clean singing. Linus Klausenitzer reinforces the rhythm section with fretless bass melodies very akin to something Obscura would come up with, as well as thumping bass lines that fit right in with the guitar and drums. Jimmy Pitts kicks in his keyboard-playing skills at very appropriate times, providing atmospheric chord progressions as well as the occasional keyboard solo (on songs like Solar Fire Cells and The Voyager, for example)...but what about the guitar players?

Hannes Grossmann plays the solo on the opening track, which isn't half bad for someone who's primarily a drummer, and leaves the rest of the solos to various other guest guitarists. The guests are all very talented players who add their own unique flavor to the music, making each of the songs have their own aesthetic and almost making each of the songs their own. The guest guitarists are: Christian Muenzner, Danny Tunker, Tom "Fountainhead" Geldschl├Ąger, Ron Jarzombek, Jeff Loomis (those last two play on the same song - The Voyager - by the way, which should be a mindfuck for anyone who appreciates good shred guitar), and the incredible Per Nilsson, whose creamy and jazzy-sounding solo on the title track takes the cake for best solo on the whole album in my opinion.

The bottom line is, this album has it all: blast beats, catchy grooves, technical and complex guitar riffs, thumping bass lines, sludge elements, death growls, screams, clean singing, tempo and time signature changes, airy and immersive power chords, keyboard solos, and a whole host of extremely talented guest musicians. If you're looking for a well-written, creative mash-up of progressive and technical death metal, this is your album. I have seriously not heard anything so diverse and imaginative in my entire life. If you don't have this on your "Best of 2014" list, that means you haven't heard this album yet.