While 2023 could be broadly summarized as the year of death metal (read our Top 25 list if you don’t believe me), 2024 is already shaping up as the year of thrash. Early and exciting releases are promising 12 months of razor sharp riffs, energetic grooves, and maniacal vocals. Case in point: the newly released debut album from Montreal sci-fi death/thrash metal trio Dissimulator.
Dissimulator may be an unfamiliar name, but the background of the band stretches across an impressive array of metal subgenres, with members cutting their teeth in groups like atmospheric brutal death punishers Chthe’ilist, funeral doom directors Atramentus, tech death wizards Beyond Creation, and epic black metal conjurers Incandescence. Given their collective experiences, it’s no surprise that Dissimulator delivers a heavy punch of twisted thrash in Lower Form Resistance.
The sound of Dissimulator isn’t exactly classic thrash metal, it’s more akin to technical death metal strangled and pummeled into the shape of thrash. Influences and echoes of the band members’ other projects abound: Lower Form Resistance is highly technical and atmospheric, inverting established formulas to an eerie and jarring effect. Ugly, though sometimes intelligible, growls from vocalist/guitarist Claude Leduc contrast with the cleaner vocals more commonly found in the style and add a tense edge to high octane riffs.
Kicking things off with “Neural Hack,” Dissimulator plunges into full-throttle thrash undercut by a mechanical baseline that adds an emphatic edge to their technical execution. The distinctive bass is a pervasive - but welcome - presence throughout Lower Form Resistance, juxtaposing a sci-fi sound against the classic sounds of the 80s. As the album builds, Dissimulator pushes the boundaries of weird and technical, gradually layering in more discordant elements. “Warped” reveals moments of electronic distortion that break our sense of reality as they silence intensely groovy riffs, gradually building to the ever-changing time signatures of “Outer Phase.”
The third track of Lower Form Resistance feels like a staging ground for “Automoil & Robotoil” and “Cybermorphism / Mainframe.”That’s not to say that “Outer Phase” is filler, but rather the crucial second act before the explosive action scene. Dissimulator showcase the expertise built in Chthe’ilist and Beyond Creation to experiment with pacing and atmosphere, rocketing from blisteringly fast grooves to darkly synthetic echoes. In one particularly spectacular verse, an arcing riff lands into rough vocals backed by racing, pulsing beats that echo emergency sirens on a spaceship. The meaty tribute to beloved thrash sounds meets future dystopia in the space of 25 seconds. “Outer Phase” delivers wordless storytelling to an extremely satisfying degree.
Racing towards the epic battle of our story, “Automoil & Robotoil” gallops into chugging guitars and growling vocals, bursting into a synthy death march before ripping into pure Voivod worship. As Dissimulator becomes more aggressively unconventional, the production truly shines. Most albums couldn’t balance the warm tones of classic thrash and death metal with the metallic finish created by the band’s synthetic experiments, but both sides of the sonic spectrum get their due throughout Lower Form Resistance.
Reaching the apex with the massive 8:05 minute “Cybermorphism / Mainframe,” we’re enveloped in slinking instrumentals reminiscent of Mastodon’s Crack the Skye, a perfect reference for Dissimulator’s off-kilter sound and intricate storytelling. The auditory palette created by the band comes into full effect on the monumental fifth track, with eerie synths oozing across old school infectious guitars. Dissimulator manage to simultaneously capture the essence of NWOTM and throw the rulebook out the window. Pacing drops to a near-doom experience for a few punishingly heavy bars, only to roar back to life with unforgiving ferocity. Listen to the song in one mood, and all you’ll hear are thrilling riffs and headbanging grooves. Listen in a different headspace and the darker tones of the mechanized base and haunting atmospheres dominant. Razor-sharp and complex, “Cybermorphism / Mainframe” is incredibly multifaceted and interesting.
“Hyperline Underflow” delivers warp speed with delightfully groovy guitars and vocals punching somewhere between thrash and death metal styles. Though it never fully leaves the gray area of death/thrash, this track might be the most thrashy across Lower Form Resistance. It’s a head-clearing jam after the jarring space opera of “Cybermorphism / Mainframe,” yet still embraces Dissimulator’s signature discordance. Riffs have a dissonant undertone and time signatures change on a dime, delivering us shaken but energized into title track “Lower Form Resistance.”
The closing number of Lower Form Resistance is an extremely angular take on thrash, injecting yet another level of technicality and aggression into the thrash framework. You’ll be tempted to handbang along to this one, especially when the riff hits at the 2:17 mark, but doing so is likely to cause injury as the pace quickens. Don’t worry, you have another chance when an angsty slowdown hits at 3:34, clearing space for a surprising burst of clean vocals offering words of warning to the desperate survivors of Dissimulator’s cyber warfare.
I can’t fully place Dissimulator in the ranks of the NWOTM, and nor do I want to do so. Lower Form Resistance mutates the swagger and fun of thrash into something darker and jarring with the injection of ruthless precision and sci-fi technicality. A promising and engaging start to the year of thrash.
Lower Form Resistance was released on January 26, 2024 via 20 Buck Spin. Check it out on the label’s Bandcamp page (next Bandcamp Friday is on February 2nd).