Nowadays, it seems everyone is interested in the newest, most interesting music. The Contortionist have upped the amount of complexity in their new album to 11. Between the Buried and Me have a 15 minute song on their latest album that is a journey across genres spanning countless riffs. But why do we always look to what’s newest for the most mindblowingly advanced music? Is it correct to think that the newest thing is always the most advanced when it comes to music? Today I am here to argue that this is not necessarily the case. First I’ll start off with a small history lesson, and by the end of the post I’ll get to some music that is still ahead of the times.
Back in the late 80s and early 90s there was an offshoot of the thrash scene called “techno thrash” (that has nothing to do with the similarly named electronic music genre). The name came from a combination of applying very technical musicianship and being obsessed with technological themes. Coroner were one of the earlier bands to adopt this style. Their 1987 album R.I.P. showed an unprecedented lack of respect for time signatures and traditional songwriting elements. However, their sound fully came to shape with their classic 1989 album No More Color.
Another example of similar music from that era was Deathrow and their 1988 album Deception Ignored.
Of course, we can’t talk about techno thrash without mentioning Voivod, one of the biggest names in the genre. They weren’t as technical as some of their peers in the genre, but they did it first and actually led to techno thrash gaining more attention and spawned all the other bands. Their first album came out in 1984, which is unbelievable if you think about what other bands were doing at the time! As comparison, 1984 was when Metallica released Ride the Lightning. One of their arguably most technically interesting albums was 1989’s Nothingface. The sound on this album can be traced to many modern bands like Last Chance to Reason.
Of course, we can’t talk about oldschool tech metal without mentioning the still-brilliant Ron Jarzombek. You might know him from tech death supergroup Blotted Science or weird prog group Spastic Ink, but before all that he became famous for his work in prog metal band Watchtower. His trademark style was still apparent back then, and many consider Watchtower’s Energetic Disassembly (originally recorded in 1983, released in 1985) to be the first prog metal album.
Watchtower’s famous sound became further established later on in their career with the masterpiece Control and Resistance, where their music started become seriously mindblowing even by today’s standards. After this point, the bands I’m talking about are still, in some ways, unsurpassed in their oddity and technical prowess by modern bands:
All of these bands led to the creation of (again, what many consider to be) the first tech death band Nocturnus. Their first album The Key (1990) is still a measuring stick in how insane and ahead of their time a band can be. They also used synths in a metal album, which was unheard of at the time, especially for heavier metal. The Key is to this date one of my favorite tech death albums.
The level of innovation on this album would make a lot of progressive bands of today jealous.
Okay, let’s move on to some weirder bands. Ever wonder what Mastodon members used to do before Mastodon? Drummer Brann Dailor and guitarist Bill Kelliher had a mathcore band called Lethargy. Their first (and only) album titled It’s Hard to Write with a Little Hand came out in 1993, and had songwriting that wasn’t only unheard of at its time, it’s still not achieved by many mathcore bands:
That’s all I have for today, but if there is interest in this becoming a series, there is an endless amount of old insane music to dredge up.