Being a discerning fan of over-the-top technical death metal/grindcore is difficult. When the defining characteristic of a sound is its lack of nuance, it’s unsurprising that a lot of the bands using it lack, well, nuance. While this might sound like an oxymoron, it actually highlights an issue. Just because the entrance requirement is displays of excessive technicality doesn’t mean that throwing everything and the kitchen sink in there is a recipe for success. Variety, creativity and consistency in songwriting are still desirable qualities. Enter Cerebric Turmoil, hailing from Germany with their debut album Neural Net Meltdown. Combining ridiculous playing with creative flourishes, they’ve already set themselves ahead of many others in the game.
What do you get when you throw in a pinch of Psyopus-like “how does this even work” guitar playing, Hunab Ku-esque disjointed (in a good way) song structures and the occasional clean break, and some slam and Cephalic Carnage-esque grind for good measure? Turns out you get Cerebric Turmoil (even the name kind of feels like a throwback to Cephalic Carnage), Now that the obligatory comparison-based description is out of the way, what really makes these German minds tick, and how does that manifest in one’s ears? Perhaps the most appealing component of the band’s songwriting is their approach to riffing. A lot of start-go styled riffing that jumps back and forth between fast guitar tapping and slow chugs reminiscent of slam, all come together in a impressive, technical framework. The Psyopus comparison comes from the fact that Cerebric Turmoil aren’t afraid to use their guitars in ways that they clearly weren’t intended to be used, including screeches, bleeps, pick noises and all kinds of oddities. Unlike the aforementioned band though, these elements aren’t an overbearing part of their sound, they’re thrown in sparingly so that they don’t distract from the groovy chugs and headbang-inducing riffs. Similarly with jazzy clean interludes, they’re very short and quite sparse (perhaps too sparse, as they do a good job of spicing up the mix). Overall, the technical and frenetic style Cerebric Turmoil have adapted works well, and while sometimes the chaotic nature of the songs can be a bit of a miss, most of the time it’s a hit.
Neural Net Meltdown just sounds good as well. The production is crisp and clear yet quite pulled back, letting everything breathe and giving off an almost live performance feel. The drums sound authentic and varied, the bass pops through the mix when it needs to, and the vocals sit just right. Speaking of the vocals, a pitfall for overly technical bands is usually forgetting that vocals can be an instrument as well. Cerebric Turmoil don’t fall into this trap, as their vocalist has quite a range. He does slam gurgles, midrange yells reminiscent of Psycroptic‘s former singer Chalky, shrieks and growls. The vocals often take a step back and let the instruments breathe, but when they’re present, they’re not a hindrance to the rest of the band, in fact they amplify the rapid changes in tone that the band go through by appropriately changing styles.
When it comes down to it, Cerebric Turmoil have a pretty solid debut on their hands with Neural Net Meltdown. Taking technical playing, varying it almost every few seconds with tempo changes and creative guitar tricks, they’ve created an intriguing mixture of heaviness and weirdness. Fans of experimental technical death metal and grindcore will find quite a bit to enjoy here.
Cerebric Turmoil’s Neural Net Meltdown gets…