Starter Kit analyzes the ins-and-outs of some of the more obscure and niche sub-genres within the metal spectrum and offers a small group of bands that best represent the sound. Read other Starter Kit entries here.
There is a subgenre of tech death that takes the ideals of the genre to the extreme, playing extremely fast and abrasively. While there isn’t really a term for this sub-subgenre, “Extreme tech death” is probably the best we can do. Now, this genre isn’t for anyone – if you’re looking for comforting, “musical” music, probably not you – but considering some more avant-garde genres, it’s not even that abrasive. There’s a listener for every legitimately made piece of music, and sometimes you’re just in the mood for absolute over-the-top heaviness with insane sweep picking and blast beats faster than you can comprehend. Enter extreme tech death.
It’s hard to pinpoint the genesis of the sound, considering it can come out of simply taking tech death and just pushing it to the max, but the movement started gaining momentum around the early/mid-2000’s with Necrophagist bringing tech death to the forefront of metal. As tech death started to gain popularity, bands started pushing the envelope. Origin‘s 2005 album Echoes of Decimation had what the band’s fans affectionately call “laser sweeps”, sweep picked arpeggios so fast that they sound like a laser weapon from a sci-fi movie. Origin are also credited for the “gravity blast”, a technique that lets drummers blast beat at twice the speed than would be possible with normal stick handling. Brain Drill were formed the same year, with drummer Marco Pitruzella of Vile, Vital Remains and The Faceless fame. The band would go on to get noticed by Alex Webster of Cannibal Corpse who recommended them to his label, and the archetypal example of the sound was born. Taking influences from tech death and grindcore, the band defined a new standard for extremity that was later followed by many others, but let’s start with the first stand-out example!
While Brain Drill obviously didn’t invent tech death, they definitely put the most extreme elements of it to the spotlight. Featuring blazing fast sweeps and tapping, very prominent bass lines that don’t necessarily follow the guitar, gravity blasts and top notch death metal instrumentation all around, Apocalyptic Feasting was not just appreciated for being extreme, it was also a great album. The band’s sound relied a lot on extensive lead sections and just higher notes in general rather than simply playing on the low strings of the guitar for a majority of the time. It set the bar for over-the-top playing to the point that they’re often referred to in a joking way for being too extreme, but it’s important to remember that boundaries exist to be pushed. This might not be music for everyone and every moment, but it’s very important that it exists because the moment will come, and then it will be the best thing for that moment.
Obviously, when talking about this genre, it’s hard to not talk about Viraemia. Taking Brain Drill’s ethos to the next level, cutting out the middle man of rhythm playing almost entirely and relying even more heavily on lead playing and very prominent bass lines, Viraemia have managed to become one of the most important names in the scene despite breaking up after releasing only a single EP. Again, while it’s easy to dismiss the band as sheer technical overindulgence, and that’s definitely the basis for the framework, but beyond that, Viraemia’s songs are actually quite compelling. It’s very difficult to write memorable and appreciable music when you’re playing that fast, but the lead line from “Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation” is instantly recognizable and catchy, and that applies to their other songs as well. In fact, that lead line is probably worth considering the defining riff of this genre.
Now that we’ve gotten the obvious greats of the genre out of the way, it’s time for a less known band that’s also a personal favorite. Slaughterbox, yet another defunct band, put out their only album The Ubiquity of Subjugation in 2011 and it’s one of the most ridiculous albums out there. It’s so insanely heavy, with playing that would give Brain Drill more than a run for their money, and crisp production to enhance their instrumentation even further. They take the genre’s grindcore influences even further, combine extreme playing with melodic lines that are a logical extreme of melodic death metal, vocals that range from black metal shrieks to slam gurgles, and a surprisingly dynamic and compelling album.
Rings of Saturn – Dingir
Monumental Torment – Element of Chaos
Entrails Eradicated – Viralocity
Beneath the Massacre – Incongruous