MetalBite Review by Ryan on 7/25/2015
Timing is damn near everything. You don’t want to show up too early at the party, that’s just rude. But being late carries a lot of risks. You can call yourself “fashionably late,” though you might just as easily transcend a barrier of crass and obtrusive tardiness. You don’t know the offense until you see those pained expressions; it’s like smelling your own farts in a crowded elevator. The doors have closed. It is too late. Upon hearing about the new technical death metal project Alkaloid
, I worried about such a state of affairs.
Arriving “too late” for a party is signified by the crumbs and drops that used to be food and booze. People have already settled into groups for conversation and flirting, and the duel of the music playlists is over and done with. Alkaloid
is very late to the tech death party, coming more than a decade after the genre’s revival. It’s still -in the words of Curtis Mayfield
- “alright to have a good time,” but Curtis isn’t playing and that dance floor is awful crowded.
And it did take some wrangling to get all those folks in the room. In the past 15 years we have moved through a rebirth of (an admittedly small market) sound, to a backlash, to attempts at reimagining, to further backlash. Now Alkaloid want to carve their own identity from this mess. I do not envy them, though with The Malkuth Grimoire
they’re off to a damned fine start.
What is that identity? Comparisons to Meshuggah
are inevitable, because they dominate the landscape of tech death like nobody this side of Chuck Schuldiner’s tombstone. This is unfortunate, because I see Alkaloid
more along the lines of Gojira
by way of Amorphis
. Their solos feel finely structured and painstakingly elaborate, and one discerns regal melodies flourishing over and between the rhythmic beds, with just the proper context of baroque excess. They employ the occasional multi-tracked chorus vocal, using the absurd robot voice effect that harkens back to Cynic
. It might seem beyond cliche by now, but Alkaloid
use the trick sparingly and to concise effect.
This album has many strengths and shows great promise, but it’s not quite a masterpiece. Alkaloid
has many journeyman musicians, some of them presumably session players. In several passages I can perceive familiar motifs or melodies that are tweaked ever so slightly from formula.
The popular templates and the presence of so many hired guns clustered around a recognized vocalist gives the impression of a “vanity project.” Perhaps this is. I can forgive egomania when it’s done with such style and cleverness. The Malkuth Grimoire
is smart, well-played, and even fun. Given the current state of tech death, such qualities are tantamount to a glorious and merciful release. I say let the after-party swing a little longer, the people who stick around make for the best conversation.
Rating: 8 out of 10