The pushed envelope is licked shut with the tongue of pretense; the understated, the conceptual, and the bizarre find friends and conduits in those few artists with both the talent and the intrepidity to wrestle their muses in their hour of greatest strength. Picasso, Rothko, Pollock and their ilk of 20th century visionaries spilled their paint and blood to destroy the boundaries of visual art, and in that avant-garde tradition, many metal musicians have found a guiding light, a beacon of utter blackness in a starry night sky. For the past two years, my “Album of the Year” honor has gone to albums that clawed at the seams of extreme metal; while imperfect, they represented a rare glimpse at the technicolor darkness trapped perpetually beyond the horizon of the genre. It’s too early to call 2015, which I must say has piddled forth only a dilute stream of quality metal; but I can say without doubt that this album is a contender.

Much like the previous paragraph, A Tunnel to Eden is pretentious. It’s philosophical – the second song is entitled “The Atheist Phenomenon” – dramatic, and ends with a half-hour suite of songs that attempt to encompass the entirety of a human life and the delusion of free will. It makes frequent references to Abrahamic tradition while decrying the very existence of God. But it’s good. A Tunnel to Eden took every risk possible to achieve an epic scope and each one paid dividends.

Alustrium‘s sophomore offering, A Tunnel to Eden synthesizes disparate influences into something new yet achingly familiar, paying heed to their forebears in Death and Atheist while incorporating flourishes only possible after melodeath’s bloating in the 2000s. The band wisely sidesteps outright tech-death while remaining virtuosic and inventive, weaving complex strands of rhythm and melody in the vein of Dark Tranquility‘s Damage Done and Character albums. If Between the Buried and Me spent less time examining the finer details of their navels, they would be writing this kind of music. Every song A Tunnel to Eden offers is just about flawless, starting with the opening title track.

Not since Teethed Glory and Injury has an opener grabbed me as much as “A Tunnel to Eden.” With its heart-wrenching lyrics of alienation and a search for self-discovery, the stage is set for the album’s ambitious and introspective lyrical concepts, which prove consistently excellent and well-delivered by the band’s trio of vocal contributors, led by frontman Jerry Martin. It’s not just the lyrics that impress here; the album’s riffs are fantastic, flaunting a heavy Gothenburg influence while diving into the brutal when needed, as on the snappy “The Atheist Phenomenon.” Almost every cut features guitar solos and wailing leads that manage to be complex and interesting while lacking even a hint of self-indulgence. Even the long and complicated leads in “My Possessor,” which recall some of Psycroptic‘s recent work, flow effortlessly from point to distant point, connecting heavy chugs to an airy Cynic-inspired solo section, complete with fusion drumming and that arpeggio from “Hotel California.”

The second half of A Tunnel to Eden is the 30-minute ‘Illusion of Choice’ suite, made up of the album’s longest and most ambitious songs (“Genesis,” “Eros,” and “Thanatos”), arriving after the beautiful mid-album instrumental “Lucid Intervals.” These stretch out the runtime of the album past what I normally consider appropriate – bringing the total length far past the hour mark. They truly are a worthy addition, but one wonders why the band chose to put all of this into one album, rather than designating it a double LP or two separate works. The ‘Choice’ suite utilizes the same kaleidoscopic palette as the rest of the album and isn’t thematically different, yet it would have been more impactful to hear the two separately. Luckily, they’re well-proportioned to act as functionally separate discs.

This may very well be 2015’s best prog-death album, and Alustrium the best up-and-coming “traditional” progressive death metal band  in years. While not as jaw-dropping as Beyond Creation or as innovative – or anywhere near as dark – as Ulcerate and their nascent ilk, the band are obviously fantastic writers and performers, and A Tunnel to Eden is truly epic and inspired. Its middle-of-the-road approach might seem vanilla, but holy hell have they put a lot of sauce and jimmies on the cone – and it shows no signs of melting soon. It’s one of the year’s best releases, period, is chock-full of righteous God-denyin’ lyrics that would make Richard Dawkins bang his head, and has the prettiest album cover since Ecdysis; a whole orchard of forbidden fruits with the friendliest snakes around.


Rating: 4.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 160 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites:  AlustriumOfficial | alustriumofficial.bandcamp.com
Release Dates: Out Worldwide: 07.24.2015

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  • This is good. The changes between the blast and melodic sections are very sudden and made me enjoy a lot more the melodies. I like this.

  • fgt

    The embedded is wicked but I feel as if this album won’t be as good as The Malkuth Grimoire overall, in regards to best prog-death album. Still gonna buy and play this until my lust for Pyrrhon wears off.

    • sssgadget

      Malkuth Grimoire is so damn good.

    • Kronos

      I hope you know some good recipes that use your hat.

  • Professor D. Grover the XIIIth

    You drop some major names here in comparison, but you have my attention. The embedded track certainly has my attention. I’ll definitely be checking this out when it’s available.

  • kmal666

    The Malkuth Grimoire is still my AOTY and seems unlikely to be dethroned anytime soon. That embedded track definitely has my attention though.

  • Worldeater

    Thank you Kronos, reading this review was quite exquisite! I hope the music can keep up with your words. A Tunnel To Eden is definitely on my to do list this weekend.

    • Celaeno

      Agreed. I’m a little late to the party on this one but that had to be one of my favorite reviews. Exquisite indeed.

  • Tentacles

    Mmmm…this is really good! Be checking it out on Bandcamp for sure.

  • El_Cuervo

    “2015, which I must say has piddled forth only a dilute stream of quality metal”.

    Goddamned hater, I’ve enjoyed 2015 so far. This pessimism is why I called you out in my Wilderun review.

    That aside, I’m psyched for my full copy of this to be released.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      What the …I agree, this year has been amazing!

      • These guys are all high as kites. 2015 has already been insane.

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          higher even!

    • Garak

      There’s been a lot of solid stuff. Not a lot of amazing stuff.

      • I’m in this boat.

        • Grymm

          Me too. Hell, my #3 album o’ the year came out in November of last year (in Europe, at least).

          Very little was mind-blowing this year, save for a few select albums (such as this one).

    • Kronos

      You sissies and your folk metal. I’ll just be over here enjoying the new JUTE GYTE album in my native KALKVLTTA.

    • Levly

      I agree, there has been plenty of great records in 2015 in all types of Metal, from Prog to Power and from Black to Death!
      The weak year was last 2014, my best of list for this year so far is of waaaaaay better quality than last year.

      And with Riverside, Amoprhis, Borknagar and perhaps even Moonsorrow on the way, its far from over :).

      • Monsterth Goatom

        New Moonsorrow and Borknagar? Tasty! Can’t wait.

    • Siege Bantayan

      And I’m still here waiting for a thrash album that’ll blow me out of the water this year. There have been good ones, yeah, but.. yeah hahaha.

      • Kronos

        Trials

        • Siege Bantayan

          Hotdamn I better check that out. I loved their 2013 outing.

      • Luke_22

        I’m hoping Vektor drop one before the year is out.

  • John Mosley

    Pedestrian track. A compositional mess, lackluster execution.

    • SegaGenitals

      Really?

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    This looks great,
    “chock-full of righteous God-denyin’ lyrics that would make Richard Dawkins bang his head” will pick this up based on that line alone :). Embedded song is great, good to see more quality self released music hats of to these fellas!

  • Garak

    Harkens back to The Farthest Reaches by Son of Aurelius in many ways, which can only be considered a good thing. I already had this on my list to check out from the NCS premieres, but the Kronos approval stamp bumps it up a bit.

    This outro also reminds me of Allegaeon’s best moments.

  • SuperBakaKing

    I like a band who knows their way around a woodwind.

  • Nice review , loved the album tho.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Well executed musically. Sounds like a great band for fans of this style. This uber-hardcore vocal style isn’t for me, though. Try to listen for more than 30 seconds, it just sounds like someone’s puking. Ugh.

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    Sounds interesting, great review as well. Autotheism comes to mind for some reason, but judging by your description this won’t be one of the worst death metal records of all time. A bit nervous about the lyrics, as often an “intelligent” take on disliking God comes across as cringeworthy ramblings of a first year college student who read ‘The God Delusion’ once and now has the universe figured out. Gonna have to stream this when it drops!

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Of the two tracks available so far on Bandcamp, I really like Slackjaw. Come on and be July 24th already! Thanks, Kronos.

  • Óðinn

    Meh.

  • The cover is so good. Ahh. The embedded song is also rather good.
    Idk about the Richard Dawkins line, I’m an atheist but I hate him with passion. (Not like I understand much of the lyrics just by listening.)

  • Luke_22

    Hadn’t caught wind of these guys before but this sounds phenomenal. Tech death can be so damn exhilarating when done well.

  • Grymm

    This reminds me of end-period Death, but with modern-day brutality. I’m loving this so far!

  • El_Cuervo

    Just thought I would add this several days later now that I own a copy and it’s great:

    the solo in the middle of My Possessor really reminds me of Yngwie’s “Black Star”.

    Great range of influences at play here.

  • Angel R. Suarez

    Headbanged so hard I cracked my skull on my desk.

    Great stuff.

  • Bryan Stroup

    This actually sounds like Centaurus A more than anything else to me.

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    It is shocking how good this album is. Haven’t heard tech-death this good since, and as a huge Ulcerate fanboy, I thought Ad Nauseam would blow this clean out of the water. The cohesion has made it, overall, a more enjoyable listen than any records from Archspire or Beyond Creation tbh. And what, with the onslaught of atmospheric, grimy tech-death releases, it seems the vanilla approach is surprisingly refreshing for the times.