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Reigning beyond the stylistic Rubicon. - 89%

hells_unicorn, December 18th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Pathology Music

In their latter days, Pathology has come to embody a path for brutal death metal that seems counter-intuitive to the name itself, specifically a sort of intellectually advanced type of killing machine that is as much interested in the intrigues going on behind the scenes as they are in the kill itself. This is a band that basically moved away from the whole concept of describing the process or the aftermath of a botched amateur surgical procedure and have delved into something of a Dystopian Sci-Fi nightmare world that is equally as hospitable to their hammer-to-the-skull brand of sonic brutality as the lyrical pursuits of the post-Cannibal Corpse scene. But despite the last several albums by this band being fairly atypical next to their gore and violence obsessed origins, Throne Of Reign has brought about a rather remarkable stylistic pivot that is about as substantial as the one they made when Age Of Onset first introduced Matti Way's otherworldly vocals into the picture.

The shell of this album is definitely well within the realm of the frenetic chaos matched with pummeling slams style that has always been this band's staple, but the production and various moving parts on the fringes of this particularly incarnation of the band has a decidedly more nuanced character. Perhaps the biggest outlier is the drum sound, which is extremely processed and rhythmically precise, almost to the point of sounding like it was done on a drum machine with an extremely high attack to sustain ratio. Similarly, the riff work churned out by Tim Tiszczenko occasionally becomes so wild during the blast sections that it could pass for Necrophagist territory, and even the slam and mid-paced grooving elements are animated enough to have more of a thrashing feel to them than the sort of slow-trudging, primeval stomp that would typify a Devourment slam section. Even the pinch harmonics have this sort of methodical character to them that seeks after a sense of complex order rather than outright chaos.

The larger than life elements don't stop with the riff work and insane drumming display, but spill into every other facet of this album's nature. Matti Way's vocals are naturally massive in character and provide a sort of rumbling bass effect that makes up for the lack of a bass player on this album, and actually goes beyond simply bolstering the rhythm during slam sections to sounding like he's putting the actual slam into things more so than the guitars and drums. However, the true point of stylistic divergence that puts this thing into a class all by itself is the guitar solos, which are handled two old school death metal shredders Shaune Kelley and Ralph Santolla, and younger brutal fellow traveler Chris Peluso. Not only does the shredding style of these players introduce an element of early 90s classic brilliance into the equation, but the band actually adapts their playing style to take on a more melodic and consonant character to accommodate it, resulting in something that could almost be dubbed progressive given the massive leap in feel that it entails.

Pathology has always been a very prolific and consistent contributor to the brutal style, but here they've gone from simply being stalwarts to being outright trailblazers with something resembling crossover appeal. Songs like "Harvest", "Relics Past", "Above Atmosphere" and "Members" are so esoteric and even, at times, epic in character that it wouldn't be much of a stretch to possibly see people normally drawn to the likes of Decrepit Birth and Arsis potentially giving an album like this an occasional listen. It remains to be seen whether Pathology will acquire another full time guitarist capable of matching the technical detailing that has been added onto this album, but hopefully future releases will continue to explore and even expand upon what has taken place here. This is largely untouched territory within the brutal style and generally something more readily pursued by progressive bands, and if a trend continues, there may even be a new subset of progressive bent slam bands out there looking to expand the horizons of what brutality actually means.