There’s a type of victory in sports called a “wire-to-wire” win, where one team holds the lead throughout the entire game. Instead of both teams tying and trading leads multiple times or one side staging an epic comeback, the winner dominates the match from start to finish and quells any doubt who the ultimate victor will be. It’s as gratifying for fans of the winner as it is dispiriting for those watching their team play toward an inevitable demise.
In the case of God Kaiser Hell, every aspect of the album helps define it is a decisive wire-to-wire win for Peripheral Cortex. From the incredible, musically emblematic cover art from Niark1 to the album’s dizzying sonic journey, every moment spent with God Kaiser Hell inspires greater admiration for what Peripheral Cortex have accomplished. It’s an early highlight from metal in 2020 that should remain a top contender for year-end-lists.
I could have been more specific here and described God Kaiser Hell as a top contender for death metal, as tech death provides the foundation for Peripheral Cortex’s sound. Yet, leaving the genre tagging at that ignores the eclectic eccentricity of the band’s music. Fans of tech death wizardry will still certainly find themselves at home. Led by an assault of fretless guitar and bass along with top-notch drumming, clear parallels can be drawn between God Kaiser Hell and the likes of Archspire, Decrepit Birth, and Necrophagist.
But then more progressive shades surface in the mix, particularly the celestial, vocoder-heavy tendencies of The Faceless, along with the nimble, math-leaning elements of early deathcore bands like Animosity. Flavors of the early ’00s mathcore and cybergrind scene pop up as well. Then there are the avant-garde tendencies bursting through the seams of this bricolage, calling to mind the weirdest moments from The Dillinger Escape Plan and Mike Patton‘s careers.
The result of all this is far more cohesive than it should be, which is to say that Peripheral Cortex excel at distilling an incredible array of influences into a coherent, successful vision. Every track maintains the technicality and brutality of death metal while including a host of whimsical and avant-garde moments. The vocals in particular do an excellent job of fleshing out the album’s diverse compositional approach, whether it’s the Patton-esque delivery on “#selfiewithgod,” powerful, soaring cleans on “Imagine Bob Ross Painting Judgement Day,” or the gratuitous use of vocoder on “Charon’s Obol.”
Given how much we love effective use of sax in metal, I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight the sparing but excellent addition of the instrument on God Kaiser Hell, ranging from a brief appearance on “Deadheadened” to an all-out jazz-core eruption on “Detective Noir Versus The Cult Of The Imperfect Circle.” The latter track in particular is one of the most bonkers moments on an album full of bold experimentation. It’s essentially a mashup of John Zorn and Patton’s collaborative projects and the jazz-metal hybrid of Naked City. Unsettling spoken word and improvised vocal outbursts twist around free jazz sax explorations, all with manic blast beats and a crunching guitar refrain lurking in the background. Put simply, it’s a wild ride that’s difficult to avert your attention from.
Even if you somehow find God Kaiser Hell disappointing, there’s simply no denying how ambitious an undertaking the album was for Peripheral Cortex. Personally, I find it difficult to believe anyone at all interested in death metal and avant-garde music will complete their initial listen of God Kaiser Hell and not feel compelled to immediately embrace the mania once more. Bands like Peripheral Cortex prove why metal remains one of the most inventive genres of music and will never have a firm boundary drawn around the confines of its creative possibilities. Perhaps more importantly, the band demonstrates how to channel this potential into a worthwhile album. Ambition without direction produces chaos; fearlessness with a purpose creates essential listens like God Kaiser Hell.
God Kaiser Hell is available now and can be purchased via Bandcamp.