Another month, another Ne Obliviscaris side project. Just a few short months after Vipassi released their amazing debut EP Śūnyatā, multi-instrumentalist Brendan Brown, best known as the bass player in the aforementioned bands, has put the finishing touches on the debut LP of his solo project Infinite Density. A staggering nine years in the making, this album saw Brown compose and track each instrument. As mentioned in his initial album announcement, one reason for the length of time taken in releasing this record is because Brown has spent much of that time honing his guitar skills to a level where he could actually play the songs he had written. That moment is finally upon us as he enlists Ben Boyle (Hadal Maw, A Million Dead Birds Laughing, Vipassi) on vocals to release a technical death metal album in the vein of acclaimed acts such as Wormed and Inanimate Existence.
The record opens with “Infinite Rebirth” a track which, whilst not entirely representative of the album, does showcase two of its greatest qualities: groove and melody. This isn’t a Brain Drill style album where everything is over the top and faster than a cheetah on performance enhancing drugs, instead grooves and melodies work together to give the song a firm structure, giving the listener something to hold onto and something to remember it by. Every track on the album has at least one hook, one melody on there that will have you humming along as you go about your day-to-day life, an achievement that is no easy feat for the genre. There aren’t any ostentatious solos, only well composed flashes which add to the overarching song.
The vocals used on the record are best exhibited by the following track “Awakening Shantak”. Here we see a variety of vocal styles on display, from the demonic, guttural noises that Wormed have perfected, to growled vocals in the style of Be’Lakor or Amon Amarth, and finally to a mid-range growl which often accompanies the more melodic sections of these songs. Whilst the first two styles could not have been executed better, initially the mid-range growls can come across as strange, and perhaps even as grating. It is only on repeat listens that you come to realise how well this approach interacts with the underlying guitars and, not only does this realisation make such vocals bearable, but you even find yourself looking forward to them, particularly on the exceptional latter half of “Pulses of Grandiosity”.
Returning to our earlier comparisons, we must ask ourselves why this album sounds like Wormed and Inanimate Existence. Similarities with the former include, at times, the vocal style, the space and sci-fi themes, the groove, and the occasional use of samples. Moreover the overall aesthetic of the record is quite similar to that of Inanimate Existence and so is the way it provides us with a few surprises along the way, such as the beautiful guest vocals of Brown’s partner Rachel Murray on “Multidimensional Gravity” or the occasional inclusion of new instruments such as acoustics guitars and flutes. There is quite a bit of variation to be found here as each track looks to add something different to the album, highlighting a new aspect of their sound whilst still remaining a part of the whole.
Thus far we’ve been quite positive in our review, and deservedly so, for this is a fantastic record; however, it is not without fault. There are times when the transitions from one passage to the next can seem somewhat forced, without flowing as naturally or seamlessly as one would like. The drums are also lacking from a production perspective, sounding both too machine-like and somewhat thin, and the presence of someone like Dan Presland (NeO, Vipassi, AMDBL) behind the kit could have helped take it to another level.
The final issue is perhaps one of expectation. Ne Obliviscaris and Vipassi have both released records at the forefront of their respective niches or sub-genres. On the other hand Recollapse of the Universe is not as fast or progressive as Obscura, as brutal as Wormed, as catchy as latter-day Psycroptic or as well-crafted as Inanimate Existence. Thus it is seemingly a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none and, whilst that statement is true to an extent, it also undersells this album. Recollapase of the Universe is a strong effort from front to back, with memorable songwriting and enough surprises to keep the listener engaged. In a way, it’s a brilliant introduction to the genre because of how easily one can step from this album to some of the bands mentioned above, steps which otherwise may not have been so straightforward. We must also remember that these songs were written nine years ago, and had they come out around that time this could have been a landmark release, a visionary and pioneering work for the genre. Instead it has only whetted our appetite. Now we wait with baited breath for what will follow. Will we see a similar style with more polish? Will there be new surprises and complexities thrown our way? Or will we get a record which, like this one could have, pushes the modern boundaries of the genre to new limits? Whatever the outcome, let’s hope we won’t have to wait another nine years to hear it.