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A logical step. - 85%

TheNotrap, September 13th, 2021

It comes as no surprise that if you Google "Replicant" you'll get something like "(in science fiction) a genetically engineered or artificial being created as an exact replica of a particular human being", or maybe some link directing you to Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic - Blade Runner. In either case, the concept attached to this fictional character is not only linked to New Jersey's dissonant death metallers for aesthetic or cinematic reasons; it reveals, intentionally or not, that the lads' music carries strong influences from two main entities - Gorguts and Demilich. Therefore, the concept behind "replicant" is somewhat appropriate to the band's output for different, but intertwined reasons. Their debut full-length release, Negative Life, embodied this stylistic duality by unabashedly unveiling Replicant’s primary inspirations. I love it when an artist isn’t afraid to disclose his references; it is both a sign of confidence and a show of respect for those who preceded him.

Malignant Reality follows the same path as its precursor but now dressed in a slightly more modern outfit, much due to its sound engineering that intended to carry the band into the new decade in a more sci-fi(ish), synthetic wrapper; something that in my opinion was not entirely successful. I will come back to this later; for now, it is important to note that Malignant Reality is a high-quality offering. Songs such as 'Caverns of Insipid Reflection', 'Coerced to Be' or 'Dressed in Violence' are among the best the band has ever produced. Replicant's sound signature keeps swinging between Gorguts and Demilich, with the former being more visible in the riffs and vocals (strongly inspired by Luc Lemay's rather schizoid delivery) and the latter in the mid-paced grooves that sprout all over the place. Everything, of course, wrapped in a modern dissonant package that brings those nineties influences to 2021, thus giving them some contemporaneity while adapting them to the band's DNA. The Pestilence-esque riffs in 'Death Curse' and 'Coerced to Be', or the brutal death metal textures in 'Excess Womb', 'Chassis of Deceit' and 'Dressed in Violence', are other ingredients that bring some extra excitement and entertainment to the mix. However, despite this hybrid scenario and top-notch performances by the entire crew, I couldn't help but feel a one-dimensional overlay, as if the entire soundscape was somehow compressed into a flat shape, lacking the necessary spaces, dynamism, and atmosphere. Greater ambiance and gap between parts would not only benefit the overall drama and the schizoid experimentalism of songs like 'Ektoskull' or 'The Ubiquity of Time’, but would also catapult Malignant Reality's sci-fi surroundings to a whole new level.

As cliché as it may sound, Malignant Reality is somewhat of a logical step for the band. It not only continues to carry the core ingredients of Negative Life but also succeeds in introducing some new nuances, even if these haven't been perfectly materialized by sound engineering. It's debatable whether the New Jersey lads managed to surpass their debut album or if Malignant Reality totally lived up to expectations. One thing is for certain, though - it solidifies Replicant as one of today's most interesting dissonant death metal powerhouses, and that, my friends, not even Ridley Scott or Harrison Ford would disagree.

Originally written for www.sputnikmusic.com