Few bands have earned the respect of their elders while garnering fanatical appeal amongst the younguns like Allegaeon has. Some two-and-a-half years following their breakthrough Proponent for Sentience, which featured the instant classic and immediate addition to my alarm tones “All Hail Science,” and which saw them tour with fellow progressive trailblazers Ne Obliviscaris, Colorado’s favorite hyper-technical nerd thrashers return with Apoptosis, their first effort with new bassist Brandon Michael and second with Riley McShane at the mic.
Apoptosis sees Allegaeon further their gradual shift from the steely sounds of earlier efforts like Formshifter and towards a more robust, earthy, and pretty freaking frightening take on shred, death metal, prog, and thrash. This is made unambiguously clear from the album’s opening notes, where Mr Michael tap-dances across his finger board in a manner that recalls a heavily caffeinated Sean Malone. It doesn’t take long before Allegaeon asserts that though their form has indeed shifted, they are still at heart the same unit that spices its prog-death-thrash with a distinctly Latin flair not heard this prominently in metal since Power of Omens wowed us twenty years ago. Riley‘s terrifying roar at the top of “Interphase // Meiosis” belies his diminutive stature and hipster demeanor, and along with Brandon Park‘s impossibly perfect kickwork, welcomes its eager audience.
Apoptosis is Allegaeon doing what Allegaeon does, cackling as it gives the finger to norms long established and instead using bizarre textures and bizarre harmonies to create bizzarely humable, growled refrains. “The Secular Age,” a number that threatens to earn you a speeding ticket while describing a utopia that seems at once within reach and completely unattainable, is a case in point, while “Extremophiles (A)” grooves in 4/4 before Mr Burgess lays down some not terribly flashy neoclassical restraint. Think Yngwie, but disciplined. “Extremophiles (B),” its companion’s sequential predecessor (yeah, I don’t get it either) contrasts this with kicks and riffs so tightly packed you’d be hard-pressed to set it aflame. Riley gives another worthy performance on this one, delivering deep, guttural growls at the refrain befitting gore bands such as Mortician, while still allowing his band-mates enough flexibility for lead guitarist Greg Burgess to salute the inimitable Queen at the interlude. How’s that for a WTF moment?
Expanding their straight-up prog tendencies beyond mere Rush covers (and if you haven’t heard their Rush covers, what the hell are you doing with your life?) is the freaking excellent “Tsunami and Submergence,” which sees Allegaeon effortlessly combining the classic progressive rock sound with their signature technical death metal, replete with Burgess‘ impossibly perfect flamenco-inspired Marty Friedman odes. Riley again demonstrates his vocal badassery on this cut, desperately crooning here and vomiting demons there while Mr. Park and Michael Stancel respectively pound and arpeggiate over some form-shifting time signature, baiting you with trance only to assault your unsuspecting ears. If “Tsunami and Submergence” doesn’t find itself in the Allegaeon canon, metal is in a sad state of affairs indeed. That finishing roar tho.
The quintet revisits familiar territory with the technical nerd thrash of “Exothermic Chemical Combustion” and “Stellar Tidal Disruption,” and the requisite nouveau flamenco instrumental comes in the form of “Colors of the Currents.” But the album reaches its second apex with the ten-minute title track. Its mellow opening, Floydian delays, and Tommy Rogers vocal stylings give way to a blast-beat ridden, trem-picked, furious black metal motif to which we gloriously return after several minutes of good ol’ Allegaeon earspank. The guys revisit their roots most obviously on this track save for the black metal interludes, and it’s puzzling as fuck that death thrash and black metal aren’t pitted together more often, because these dudes make it work so freaking awesomely, the song seems like it’s just beginning as it fades out.
Like its predecessors, Apoptosis strikes a delicate balance between advancing the Allegaen sound and honoring its past. It’s as if we are witnessing evolution in process, with each successive species just distinct enough to achieve that speciation, but still close enough genetically to leave carnal desire intact. Or perhaps, as the album title suggests, are we seeing bits of the band’s past die off in order for the organism to maintain and improve vitality?
Released by: Metal Blade Records
Released date: April 19th, 2019
Genre: Progressive Metal / Death-Thrash Metal
- Greg Burgess / guitars
- Michael Stancel / guitars
- Riley McShane / vocals
- Brandon Park / drums
- Brandon Michael / bass
- Interphase // Meiosis
- Extremophiles (B)
- The Secular Age
- Exothermic Chemical Combustion
- Extremophiles (B)
- Tsunami and Submergence
- Colors of the Currents
- Stellar Tidal Disruption
Rather than making a complete about-face as Metallica did between “...And Justice for All” and the black album, Allegaeon are playing it smart not only by making their changes gradually, but by actually making their changes advantageous to their own importance.