Let’s take a deep breath together before we start; this one is a doozy. Breathe in. And out. OK, now we can get going. Do Alkaloid need an intro? They shouldn’t, at least not in Heavy Blog circles. Just in case you’re somehow unfamiliar, we’re talking about the supergroup to end all supergroups within the death metal scene, comprising Morean (Dark Fortress, Noneuclid) on vocals and guitars, Christian Muenzner (Spawn of Possession, Ex-Obscura, Ex-Necrophagist) on guitars, Danny Tunker (Aborted, Ex-God Dethroned) on guitars, Linus Klausenitzer (Obscura, Noneuclid) on bass and Hannes Grossmann (Blotted Science, Ex-Obscura, Ex-Necrophagist) on drums. Their previous release, The Malkuth Grimoire, was a masterclass in progressive death metal, a sci-fi inspired epic spanning galaxies, incredibly inspired music and excellent production.
So, now that we’ve spent a whole paragraph introducing a group which needs no introduction, let’s get to the reason for which you’re all reading this review: yes, Liquid Anatomy is just as good as The Malkuth Grimoire, and it might even be better. How? Don’t fucking ask me; I was dreading this release, expecting what we’ve all come to expect from supergroups such as these. That is, I was expecting a disappointing follow up, proving that the first album was a fluke.
But it really, really wasn’t a fluke, and the release of Liquid Anatomy should only further reinforce an idea that’s been spinning around in my mind for a while now: Alkaloid are one of the most important and thrilling bands operating in metal today. They’re one of the places from which classic metal albums of our decade will be produced, if they haven’t already (and it’s fairly likely that this one is the first). What makes Liquid Anatomy wok so well? Many elements, obviously, but we can focus on four: an increased propensity for progressiveness, an exceptional vocal performance, a greater emphasis on the concept and everything else that was already present on the previous album.
First, the progressives tendencies. This element slaps you right in the face as the first track starts playing; “Kernel Panic” answers a question we never knew needed asking, and it’s “what if Rush played progressive death metal?”. The guitar riff, the role of the bass, the vocals, all draw heavily on 70’s progressive rock. But that’s not the only place on the album you’ll find these influences. Head on over to “In Turmoil’s Swirling Reaches” for example and listen to the bass and the drums having a good ol’ time, switching between unisons to counterpoints, all across uneven meters and odd compositions. In other places on the album, the guitars will throw some Yes at you, picking up that hopscotch vibe that the classic band has always espoused.
All of these are further enhanced by an even more powerful performance from one of the already incredible elements that make up Alkaloid: the vocals. Naturally, Morean and Tunker are no strangers to mixing clean and harsh vocals but on this album, that classic device is taken to a whole new level. On the aforementioned “In Turmoil’s Swirling Reaches” for example, the backing vocals perfectly support the harsher leads, before the clean vocals return to infuse the track with the dreamy, spacious nature it requires.
In general, and pretty originally, the clean vocals are the main conveyer of the concept on the album. They have the most callbacks to the previous release and the most lyrical and compositional callbacks within the album itself. They’re often our anchor, which is an impressive feat of songwriting as they’re often complex and unexpected. However, through clever note choices, callbacks and similar-but-fresh verse structures, the clean vocals end up being one of the most distinctly memorable and approachable elements on the album.
Which makes sense when you consider how much more fleshed out the concept is on this album. While the The Malkuth Grimoire obviously had its own sci-fi story, it was somewhat frazzled at points and often abandoned in favor of more standalone and self contained writing. On Liquid Anatomy, all of that has been discarded; every moment on the album contributes towards the greater story, slowly building up an epic tale of racial genesis, galactic conquest, space horror and wild science. The result are lyrics that, just as much as the solos or the riffs, move the listener and keep us coming back for more. It’s an impressive feat of storytelling, injecting yet another level to the already complex music that Alkaloid make.
And thus, we end up at our last element, the last stroke of genius that makes Liquid Anatomy an even better album that its predecessor: alongside all of these innovations, Alkaloid kept everything else that had already made the band great. Are you looking for those signature Grossmann blastbeats and intricate drum lines? Check out “Interstellar Boredom” and sate yourself to your heart’s desire. Are you after those weird guitar parts that only Muenzner writers in his feverish genius? They’re all over this album, but head on over to “Chaos Theory and Practice” and remember to pick up your jaw once you’re done. And if it’s nasty riffs you’re after, why not press play on “Azagthoth” and watch the walls crumble around you with eldritch energy?
To make a really long story just slightly shorter, this album is something you need. It’s a high water mark in the history of modern death metal, perfectly metastasizing everything that makes the genre great into one incredibly impressive whole. It’s progressive, dynamic, powerful, convincing, deep and infectious, a beast that will keep you pinned beneath its otherworldly claws for a while as you grapple with understanding everything that’s going on around you. Oh, and we didn’t even mention the twenty minute epic that closes off this album. What are you waiting for? Go to your calendars right now and circle 18th of May over and over again until you summon an elder god. Alkaloid demand it and you shall answer the call if you know what’s good for you.