Oh math, how I hate you. Next to physics (which ruined my day with its so-called “gravity” as I scaled my childhood tree fort and refuses me the privilege to smoothly glide around corners in my front-wheel-drive Pontiac Vibe), math straight-up pisses me off. If it’s not simple algebra, I admittedly can’t solve a mathematical problem to save my life. I know it’s my fault for tuning out during Calc I, II, and III but I just don’t care. That’s right math; fuck you and your solving-problems-for-no-reason mentality, your dumb-ass variables, and for making me feel stupid.
You’re probably asking yourself, what does Dr. Grier’s Rant of the Day have to do with Continuum’s debut release? Let me get right down to it. When I first snagged Continuum’s The Hypothesis, I immediately thought of laying the number eight on its side, finding my worthless high-school math teacher, and then shoving it up his ass. But, thankfully, The Hypothesis has some musical substance that does more for me than make me feel like a jackass for not comprehending “levels” of infinity. The debut from this Santa Cruz-area “supergroup” takes all that boring math mumbo-jumbo and uses it to fuel this razor-sharp tech-death vehicle. Be sure to pay attention, there’s a quiz at the end.
I say “supergroup” because ex-Son of Aurelius, ex-Animosity, and current Decrepit Birth mastermind Chase Fraser stacked Continuum’s ranks with members from some of California’s finest tech-death bands; Deeds of Flesh, Arkaik, Flesh Consumed, and Son of Aurelius. With mic and drumming duties handled by Son of Aurelius’ Riley McShane and Spencer Edwards, respectively, one would assume some similarities to their 2014 outing, Under a Western Sun. However, McShane goes for the deeper death growls and sharp rasps, reminiscent of bands like Origin and Aborted, rather than employ his phenomenal clean singing. Between his rasps and the biting guitar licks from Fraser and Ivan Munguia, tech-death fans will find all they need from the neck-breaking (and dumbly titled) “Wasps in the History of the Weak” and the highly-calculated and devastating “A Surreal Descent.” Solid and memorable, these tracks are standouts on The Hypothesis. Other big moments include the one-two punch of opener “Hypothesis; A Profound Discovery” and its follow-up, “The Epiphany.” So concise and fluid, you’ll mistakenly assume these two were the same song.
And then there is the drumming. Edwards transforms into a drum-kit mutant as he drops the current progressive metal sound of SoA and utilizes a back-to-basics brutal tech approach on The Hypothesis. While neither over-doing it nor going stale, Edwards powers through “The Awakened Creator” and hammers offbeat nails into your brain on the nine-minute closer “Steppes of Ascension.” And for those that want the spattering and blasting of mighty hands and feet, the first half of instrumental “Where the Worlds were Left” should leave an impression (even though it really serves no purpose on the album).
Though the recording and balance of the album are well done, Zack Ohren’s mix brings to mind Fallujah’s Flesh Prevails (yep, here we go again). Sadly, the dynamics on The Hypothesis force me to clip its score, but not at the same magnitude as it clips on me. Seriously, it’s so loud it makes me wince and the ear fatigue is impossible to escape. This is very apparent on “Steppes of Ascension.” While the best riff on the album dwells in its staffs, its constant barrage of instrumentation and its nine-minute length are wearing and run a good four minutes too long. Luckily, this is offset by the half-hour runtime of the album; keeping the throbbing to a minimum and, while still exhausting, repeated listens are not unbearable.
These issues aside, this album should please most techies (especially the back half). Not as impressive as Origin’s mighty Omnipresent and not as enjoyable (in my opinion) as Fraser’s work on SoA’s The Farthest Reaches, the instrumentation is impressive and the execution is exact. It’ll be interesting to see where these guys go from here. I guess math doesn’t always have to be boring after all.