In recent years I’ve shied away from tech death. Sure I loved Origin back in their Antithesis era, but these days if I want noodles I’ll just make some fucking pasta. That said, a band name as cool as Infinite Earths was tough to ignore, particularly in how it invoked notions of parallel universes and promises of sweet purple cover art with a cosmic beast devouring a planet or some shit. Sadly the artwork didn’t quite deliver the way a Unique Leader release probably would have, but at least the contents weren’t half as bad as I expected.
Formed in 2012, this Florida quintet originally billed themselves as a “progressive black metal” act on 2014’s Spiral from Spacetime EP, though a cursory listen indicates that may have been stretching things. With full-length debut Into the Void, there’s no question what Earths are peddling: this is tech death through and through. With their spinning guitar acrobatics, vocalist Josh Joel Mazorra’s dry bark, and tendency to use blastbeats sparingly, the first name that comes to mind is Psycroptic, but that’s not the full story. The opening bars of the first track “Act 1: Into the Void” actually reminded me of Edge of Sanity with the tender acoustic guitars and clean singing, and these progressive elements are certainly incorporated liberally throughout the remaining 4 tracks. It’s also easy to draw comparisons to Inanimate Existence or pre-reunion Cynic, minus the jazzy interludes and with a few less technical and more ‘epic’ chord progressions worked in, akin to Psycroptic‘s (Ob)servant.
The thing I like most about Earths, however, is their ability to effectively use these elements to strengthen their songs. After the dramatic singing of its intro, aforementioned “Void” builds with a quick, lashing guitar melody that escalates by moving further up the fretboard before transitioning into the bashing chords of the song’s conclusion. Album standout “Act 3: Chaotic Good” and ten-minute closer “Act 5: Grave New World” both begin with chunky, imposing chugs in their opening minutes which provide a welcome breather from the often swift nature of the record. “Good” builds from there by generating some emotional heft with effective leads and tempo changes, while “World” works in some jaunty standalone basslines and crystalline solos which lead into a progression that sounds like Meshuggah during their slower moments.
Sadly, Earths still fall victim to many of the genre’s common pitfalls. Jarring songwriting? Oh yeah — check the acoustic break in “Act 2: Amalgam of Madness,” which screeches the song to a halt just as it’s achieving momentum. Likewise, while the band is obviously competent at their instruments, a lot of the guitar-work here feels pretty rote, and it’s only the group’s knack for effective arrangements that really make Void work. If I had to nitpick further, I’d say the clean singing feels a little frail and cartoony at times, particularly in late-album interlude “Act 4: The Whirling Doorway.” At 27 minutes the record is also pretty damn short, but frankly, this may be for the best — this album isn’t exactly bursting at the seams with incredible ideas, and any longer would have made things a drag.
Production-wise, the dry rasps and dryer guitar tone remind me a lot of Mindscar, of which bassist Terran Fernandez is also a member. The bass guitar is bumbling and distinct, and the acoustic plucking and singing have enough depth to give Void a healthy dose of atmosphere. With these positives in mind, in the end, this is a tough record to love or hate. While Earths haven’t written the next “Freebird” or even a song I’ll probably remember front to back, at least they have some variety, interesting builds, and enough good sense not to go off the deep end with technical showboating or bloating the album’s runtime with half-assed ideas. Despite my reservations, this is a lean and promising debut that, if this band were to get big, would probably be looked back upon as the days when the group was still honing their sound. For now, tech death fans and curious listeners will probably regard this as a wholly enjoyable release, but not something that’s in any way essential.