Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Zenith Passage - Solipsist (2016)

Coming from California and not some covert space colony that lies somewhere within the debris that makes up Saturn's rings, we have the progressive technical death metallers (just called tech-death over on Metal Archives, I guess progressive passages don't count as prog) full-length debut, which comes three years after the release of their EP effort, Cosmic Dissonance. For those of you interested, (and you will be once I start mentioning names) the act most notably features Justin McKinney of The Faceless on guitars. Yes, he delivers too – with every last bit of his might, making this record a bit more rough-edged than the previous Faceless release Autotheism, which many felt was a bit too clean and lighthearted. I'll admit that I dug the man's guitar work on the album however, especially his classic style guitar solos of which we'll also find here. But that's enough about McKinney, there are four other members here responsible for this little trip the light fantastic. On grunts and growls we have Greg Hampton, who also performs in Dog Eats Flesh and Zombie Corpse Autopsy. I don't remember dealing with either of those acts, but I can say that he more often than not hits a familiar cookie monster approach to the vocals that most technical death metal fans won't flail their arms and whine about. Drumming is handled by Luis Martinez, who is also in Oblivion and Feast of which I've never heard either. His drumming certainly brings the meat when needed, yet it is also able to convey more calm atmospheres, which you will certainly hear on this disc. You might want to read that line again, just to clarify: you will also hear calm atmospheres on this disc. The Zenith Passage create some rather heavy moments, but not all of the time and as far as this reviewer is concerned, that's a good thing. There are a lot of similar tech-death acts that already do give us the same pounding death metal frenzy for an entire record, and eventually things can get a bit bland. There wouldn't be anything to offer that I wouldn't have in my collection already. So when one wants to explore new bands (which is why you're here, reading this review) you expect to hear either something different, or something that reminds you heavy of an act that you liked. Lastly, we have Rob Maramonte rounding out the guitar section here in the band, and I'll believe that he's responsible for a lot of the crunch and groove here. You might not Maramonte for his work in Eviscerated and Fallujah, which I actually happen to recall.

As far as the album goes, we have a very textured approach to tech-death which comprises of more than just technical riffs and technical drumming. As I said, there are softer moments to be had here as well as more electronic sections that help to really decorate the record. Aside from that, we also have a level of technicality featured here that brings with it a great deal of diversity. I'm not getting a derivative performance, and sometimes certain sections completely die off in order to be replaced with completely different and unexpected pieces. It can be a bit mind-boggling for some listeners, especially when they're being taxed to listen to a mixture of technical riffs and whirly electronic keyboards, but then the bass pounds out heavy grooves and those are fronted with a menacing vocal style that opens up for a guitar solo. What? Yeah. I know that's a lot to chew on, but you have to understand that Solipsist isn't the kind of record that you can just devour in one day. With airy effects, devastating measures and all sorts of electronic gadgetry, it's safe to say that this near supergroup of musicians just might have crafted something that feels a little bit too rambunctious. Though if we get right down to it, this is nothing compared to an act like Sculptured, which literally confused listeners with their last album Embodiment (2008) so there's really nothing too far off-center, I think. It's just the kind of record that feels more like a test, just to see how things would flow together and how well listeners would accept it. The Zenith Passage definitely didn't get together to play the same old tech-death and even though the number of acts performing this style have gotten wider than is necessary for a thirty-man rumble, I feel that these four accomplished gentlemen have made something that truly stands out among the rest. Now I'm not sure if that's good enough for the heavyweight championship, but it's definitely a spot among the top ten combatants, and that my friends; is a very good thing. Give it a listen and see what you think. I'd certainly say that it is more than just a mere holdover for the next outing from The Faceless.

(10 Tracks, 39:00)


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