When the baroque classical intro "Inception" starts, with all its foreboding choirs and string instruments you really start shivering in your shoes. For about two minutes, you can see 40 minutes into the future - you instinctively -know- your ears are about to be annihilated by the sonic juggernaut of the technical Death Metal powerhouse from Sweden that is SPAWN OF POSSESSION. Their previous release "Cabinet", three years earlier, took the Metal world by storm...
If you thought NECROPHAGIST was difficult to play, forget it. The type of riffing being displayed by Jonas Bryssling and Jonas Karlsson is nigh-on inimitable. Live, their hands are like spiders, jumping and slithering across all seven strings of their guitars, drowning the audience in torrents of single note riffing, carefully placed pinch harmonics squeals and neoclassical solos that run the gamut of tapping madness, nutty picking and legato runs and the staple of this style - the ever-popular sweep-picked arpeggios. However, unlike NECROPHAGIST, the solos are -not- devolved into the standard cookie cutter harmonic minor copy-and-paste guitar exercise affair, whereas the same scales and all the same arpeggios are regurgitated over and over ala YNGWIE MALMSTEEN. Every solo captures a different feeling or idea, all the notes are carefully thought out and there is a tremendous level of classical counterpoint happening in some of them. The band has listed Russian composer Dmitrij Sjostakovitj as one of their foremost influences and this shows in their music - they're serious about the classical thing. The riffing itself is not at all atonal either; it's all -very- melodic... but definitely not in a "nice" way ;). This ain't ARCH ENEMY, this is SPAWN OF POSSESSION!!
A joy to also hear, once you're assaulted with a few songs of pure brutality is to hear a guitar roaring in the distance, fading and then clean guitars bleeding in and introducing one of the most foreboding and ominous tracks on the record, "Sour Flow". Clean guitars lead out of the track as well, in equally unnerving fashion. It sounds very creepy and there's even more moments like this on the record, such as the beginning of "In My Own Greed", where a dramatic clean melody is played that surprisingly reminded me of an Alt. Rock band I used to love called BUILDING A FACTORY (of course, played with quite a few more notes)... before the second guitar comes in and provides an _ingenious_ harmony, where both guitars are displaying great counterpoint by not playing the same thing (or even playing the same thing merely harmonized)... but really weaving in and out of each other, making a grin spread across your face. Moments like that on the album reminded me of the new ANATA record in a sense, another record with brilliant harmonies and riffing!
The only thing that I wasn't immediately pleased with was the production... it wasn't broken on "Cabinet" (in fact, that was one of my foremost favorite productions for a band like this), so why fix it? What I'm hearing is an attempt to have a thicker, more polished and more professional production... but the drums have been castrated! They're very quiet compared to "Cabinet" and the guitars - while thicker to an extent - have lost a lot of power and gain and on top of that, have become muddier! I was not happy at all with the new mix and while it definitely isn't "bad" per se (in fact, very good next to most bands), I just can't help but feel it was a step down from their previous effort. I think with a few tweaks to the final mix and master it could have sounded vastly better and it's a shame because Dennis Röndum is a BEAST of a drummer; and no song illustrates this better than the closer "Scorched". However, the music is SO mindblowing that I can let this slide completely - it's more nitpicking than anything.
If you're a fan of NECROPHAGIST, PSYCROPTIC, ANATA, THEORY IN PRACTICE, NEURAXIS, or extreme music in general... do whatever it takes to procure this album in as short a time as possible! I don't know how much more I can take, first ANATA, then AGALLOCH and now this gem... picking album of the year in December is going to be impossible :D. (Online July 29, 2006)