Psycroptic - Psycroptic - (9/10)
Published on March 10, 2015
Stars align in southern skies.
Oh, how I have loathed Psycroptic. The Australian tech death group have always seemed like something I should enjoy, and the universal esteem they’ve inspired over their fifteen-or-so years in action (not to mention my own penchant for progressive and technically-inclined death metal) has only added to the ever-present suspicion that it is I who is the problem, and that, in my opposition, I have been indeed doing myself a great disservice. Nevertheless, Joe Haley’s seemingly-directionless riffing and, especially, his brother Dave’s unrelenting and overly-triggered1 drumming have – try as I might – presented an impenetrable barrier to my personal appreciation and enjoyment. …Until now, that is.
Psycroptic: Under the sign of The Southern Cross.
Psycroptic, the band’s self-titled, sixth album, is the logical successor to the band’s last few records – particularly 2008’s, progressive-minded, Ob(Servant); and 2012’s, groove-orientated, The Inherited Repression – while at the same time addressing those albums’ shortcomings. The off-kilter riffing remains similar in fashion to the slower, more groove-driven kind found on The Inherited Repression but there’s also a hefty thrash element added to the mix, preventing those riffs found on Psycroptic from dragging as much, and – together with the now-familiar, almost hardcore-esque bark of Jason Peppiatt – has the tech-death savants, coming off as though a more virtuosic incarnation of The Haunted.
The drumming presentation has also improved out of sight – twofold. The ‘clicky’ kick tone used by Haley has long been the major obstacle to my enjoyment of Psycroptic, and I am glad to say that it has finally been rectified. Psycroptic’s drums don’t so much ‘click’ as ‘thud,’ making for a far more palatable, experience. Likewise, the drum assault has been appropriately scaled back so that Haley’s drums now compliment the rest of the band rather than competing with them. The moments where Haley goes for a straight-forward blast-beat or double-kick barrage are, here, countable on one hand (ok, maybe two) – as opposed to his usual pedal-to-the-metal approach to bass drumming, and this careful restraint allows the riffs and songs themselves some breathing room and a bit more space to float around and soak into the listener’s mind.
Comparrisons aside, Psycroptic is both an engaging and challenging record. Sonically and thematically it shares a lot in common with the last couple of Decpaitated records (2011’s oddly-titled and unexpectedly Meshuggah-tinged comeback record Carnival Is Forever; and last year’s more explicitly experimental Blood Mantra), with its dark acoustic interludes and jagged tech assaults. Bassist, Cameron Grant plays a much larger role here than he has on pervious occasions, and his presence can be felt consistently thorough out the record – particularly during the tech flurrys of “A Soul Once Lost” – and his amplified presence lends considerable power to Psycroptic’s more-streamlined approach.
Psycroptic sees its namesake capitalizing on the vast potential displayed and hashed out over their last couple of records. The album is, at once, a more complex and palatable experience than Psycroptic have previously produced, and one where outstanding and inventive songwriting takes precedent over remorseless brutality.
1 I have personally witnessed Healy play more than a few live sets with only triggers, or digital kick pads or whatever you want to call them, in lieu of an actual kick drum.