As has been discussed on the podcast twice now, the French Canadian death metal scene has continued to be unbelievably innovative and prolific for over two decades now. Propped up by a roster of key musicians who often have multiple projects to their respective names, it goes without saying that the scene has birthed entirely new approaches to tech death. Just last year, we were treated to stellar releases from both long-established acts (Gorguts) and equally excellent debut albums (First Fragment) — but it appears the scene insists on being the gift that keeps on giving well into 2017 as well.
Enter Samskaras, a two piece featuring multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Eric Burnet of Derelict alongside drummer Alexandre Dupras of Unhuman. At its core — as one might expect — the debut EP Asunder is built on the same fundamentals underlying most of the French Canadian scene, both in its approach to technicality as well as its sense of melody.
But Asunder brings to the table some subtle yet highly effective experimentation. The shimmering clean passage on “Separate” is a brilliantly executed sharp left turn, capitalizing on the intro’s momentum in a surprisingly seamless way before ripping back into thick riffage, while the absolutely delicious guitar lines on album highlight “Conqueror” evoke hints of pre-2010s Psycroptic in between. While the majority of the EP sticks to the tried-and-true French Canadian death metal formula, perhaps approximating the chunky riffing style on Cryptopsy‘s recent EP The Book of Suffering: Tome I at its heaviest (still waiting on Tome II, guys — insert Wintersun joke here) the EP is made all the better for the occasional experimentation and melodic senses found in between. Perhaps the only misstep is “Solar” — a perfectly decent track on its own, but one that ends up not doing anything particularly interesting in light of the other tracks. Still, as missteps go, it’s far from a significant flaw, and is more just a missed opportunity for even more interesting experimentation as opposed to an actual pitfall.
All of this coupled with the crystal clear yet larger-than-life production, and we have a solid winner on our hands. Asunder is easily the runaway surprise stunner for 2017’s first round of releases — it does something new and it does it well, which says a lot about Samskaras’ incredible potential. Whether Burnet and Dupras can follow it up with an equally well-crafted full-length remains to be seen, of course, but it’s probably worth betting money on. There’s nothing quite like the joy of accompanying a band from their first days and into fruition, especially in the gnarly realms of tech death. Here is an opportunity to do so. The gamble seems likely; the local scene is a fecund ground for this kind of work and the talent is certainly there. We urge you to not hedge your bets and go all in on Samskaras, as dividends are sure to follow.
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Asunder saw release on January 20th. You can head on over to the band’s Bandcamp above to purchase it. If you wait until Friday to do that, Bandcamp’s share goes to the ACLU. Just saying.