When you think about globalization, and by extension the internet, you either think of it as the bee’s knees or just another plan of the Illuminati and the Bilderberg Group to control humankind. Whichever it is, such processes are almost beyond reproach when it comes to the way they’ve exposed us to a whole new dimension of quality music from all around the Earth that would have remained “underground” and in complete anonymity 20 years ago. Costa Rica’s technical death metal quintet Corpse Garden is one such talented band benefiting from the world being as small as a village with their very good début, Burnt By the Light released in 2012. Three years and three replaced members later, how does their sophomore release Entheogen stack up?
It’s still good, even if somewhat problematic. In which way? That’s the catch! It’s hard to pinpoint the exact problem with this record. Superficially, it seems exceptionally well-done. First of all, and it’s a crucial point, this is tech death more concerned with songs than with yucky showboating of technical ability. Still, the musicianship is top-notch even when in service of the music, with special focus on the fluid and lizardy sound of the fretless bass. Carlos Venegas’ mercurial basslines alone, strewn together by a rarely seen fretless animal, make me want to put certain bass-centric songs such as “Portal to the Oneiric” on repeat. Furthermore, the riffs are meaty and addictive, the songwriting is solid with a lot going on and the production ticks all the required genre-defining boxes without sounding overly congested or compressed.
And yet, the whole package doesn’t push past the “pretty solid” point. It might be that their idea of technical death with nods towards everything and anything in the genre, from Necrophagist to Morbid Angel, comes off a bit anachronistic and outdated nowadays. Or maybe it’s the sheer number and duration of the songs that, while all on the same quality level and without duds, feel just a bit too similar to each other and a smidgen too familiar in general. In a way, Entheogen is a record that I would have devoured if only I had heard it 15 years ago.
However, there are some really cool tracks lurking around. From the opening “The Quantum Rapture” with it’s one-tempo-change-per-second approach embellished with synths and orchestration, over the groove-laden, progressively intricate “Evoking a Dead Sun” and the hard-hitting “Sulphur,” and right up until the closing melodeathish “Red Pulvis Solaris,” it’s crystal clear that these guys have what it takes to churn out awesome tunes. But in the end, looking at Entheogen as a whole, it falls short of its potential. It’s doubtful whether these issues and the lack of expected progress stem from losing three members since their first outing. Their replacements do not lag behind in the musicianship department, even if several of the original members like the vocalist Roberto Vargas were quite distinctive in their delivery.
It might be that these shortcomings are just the other side of the globalization phenomenon. This band from South America (half-around the world from where I creep), could just as well be from my town. With no special ethnic elements tied into the music and by resting on a point halfway between run-of-the-mill and trying to do something exciting and unique, they feel held back and unwilling to give themselves over completely. A cause of further disruption to the listening experience is brought on by several out of place and unneeded ambient pieces (“In the Womb of Chaos,” “Neux Ex Machina”) which have been rather clumsily inserted into the stream of otherwise direct and aggressive metal.
Putting aside all of my criticism and my ambiguous relationship towards the album, there’s no doubt that it possesses certain qualities, like a pleasant grooviness, that make me want to spin it frequently. It’s a shame that Corpse Garden failed to put down their mark and leave their own impression just a bit more forcefully. Maybe next time.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Satanath Records | Rebirth the Metal Productions
Websites: CorpseGardenOfficial | Facebook.com/CorpseGarden
Release Dates: Out Worldwide: 05.15.2015