While tech death has seen a consistent stream of high-quality albums over the past few years, it’s stood for a little while now that the genre presently seems to lack a globally identifiable vanguard of sorts. Meanwhile, bands that have traditionally occupied this role have since gone down a series of different paths: Necrophagist lay dormant, approaching almost 15 years of inactivity as far as new releases are concerned, while Obscura‘s latest release saw them changing course towards a more progressive death metal sound.
But instead of leading to some kind of stagnation, this present state of affairs has made tech death an intensely fertile breeding ground for innovation from newer, younger bands; the only difference being that instead of the community rallying around one or two huge releases that truly reinvent the whee—the last one perhaps being Spawn of Possession‘s 2012 masterpiece Incurso—tech death’s gradual broadening of horizons carries on in parallel across a vast variety of bands, albeit in slow but steady increments. The few years have therefore brought with them newer bands that follow the tech death formula for the most part, but infuse their respective sounds with uniquely fresh takes, priming themselves for becoming the genre’s vanguard of tomorrow. The list is pretty extensive: Beyond Creation, Archspire, Virvum, First Fragment, The Zenith Passage, and more have all truly come to prominence within just over the past half decade.
It’s within this context that Virulent Depravity make an entrance onto the scene with debut album Fruit of the Poisoned Tree. A three-piece at its core, featuring guitarist/vocalist/bassist Colin Butler, drummer Kevin Paradis (who had a stint with Benighted) as well as Inferi/ex-Entheos guitar wizard Malcolm Pugh, the band fits quite neatly into the above narrative. Comparisons can easily be drawn to Spawn of Possession as far as their compositional sense is concerned, with Virulent Depravity bringing a similar approach to counterpoint and harmony in their twin guitar riffs as that of the Swedish legends; albeit one that trades SoP’s comparatively analog execution for a more slickly produced style that’s closer to Necrophagist’s production on Epitaph than anything else.
The riffs are top notch and absolutely in the upper echelon of modern tech death as it stands, but no entry in the genre is complete without reflecting its infamous propensity for completely over-the-top solo work. Naturally, Fruit of the Poisoned Tree is absolutely littered with frighteningly note-perfect solos from both in-house guitarists as well as a host of guest spots, running the gamut from traditionally neo-classical sweep picking patterns to Tosin Abasi-esque fusion on final track “Crushed by Futuristic Filth”. Said track is also notable for its stunning guest spot from Jimmy Pitts of Pitts Minnemann Project and NYN, who lends both a gorgeous keyboard backdrop to the song’s main solo and subsequently chimes in with a piano bit of his own to close out the record.
While it doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, there’s virtually nothing in the way of criticism to be levied at Fruit of the Poisoned Tree‘s actual content; the only thing higher than the level of ambition displayed on the record is the level of mastery on every aspect of its final execution. Looking to be 2017’s equivalent of First Fragment’s instant classic debut record Dasein, Fruit of the Poisoned Tree epitomizes all the best things about modern tech death, and constitutes what is more or less required listening for anyone remotely interested in the genre. Yes, required.