One of our greatest strengths as a species is our ability to learn. We (most of us, anyway) glean information from experience and apply any newfound knowledge toward future endeavors, shaping our lives with said wisdom. Fire hot? Keep hands away from that shit. Sun bright? Keep eyes away from that shit. Hinder bad? Keep ears away from that shit, problem solved. The possibilities rendered from experiential education are endless, allowing us to improve and expand our own existence. We learn what works, what doesn’t work, and how we can improve. Why tech-death insists on being an exercise in as many bands as possible doing the exact same thing as each other, is something that baffles. On that note, and with Beuller-approved levels of irony, let’s talk about some dudes from Dubai and what they’ve done with the genre on their third full-length, Past, Present… Torture.

Before we get too far down this rabbit hole, let me acknowledge that Nervecell are clearly an experienced group of musicians. Guitarist Barney Ribeiro handles the rhythm section capably, channeling Necrophagist and Nile, while Rami H. Mustafa handles Obscura-esque lead work, both wielding the tones and ‘tudes of their idols aptly. James Kazhaal invokes the growling fury of Nile as he damns the history and future of humanity, and points go to him for pulling it off with such clear enunciation. All of this familiar fare is gifted a percussive path by none other than guest double-bass abuser Kevin Foley (Abbath, Sepultura, Decapitated, and more), and it is always evident that the band has learned much from the giants of the genre.

The problem, however, is that everything works because it’s already worked before, for everybody else. When I say the guitarists are channeling their idols, I don’t mean that they communicate with the spirits to seek musical guidance. What I mean is that they wear the skin of Necrophagist for clothes, kneel at an altar of Nile’s discarded chewing gum and recite Abysmal Dawn lyrics into a mirror for hours in the dark. Nervecell have certainly learned what works within the chuggy, noodly cesspool of tech-death, but instead of diving deeper into the murk or else abandoning the waters entirely, Past, Present… Torture simply floats in the stagnant slime, opting to emulate rather than deviate. It’s not particularly explorative, it’s neither aggressively good nor bad, it’s just there.

The predictability begins with the legally required instrumental “Intro,” building an Eastern melody for two minutes longer than the album needed and threatening to mire it in the icky, schticky, gimmicky goo of Black Lake Niche-Songs. Thankfully this is never the case, since that’s apparently not the element of Nile that these guys wanted to rehash. The remaining 12 songs move more quickly than the 50 minute run-time might suggest, pounding their way down the middle of the road with the obligatory guttural “ooooohhh”’s, pinch harmonics, and shin-splinting drums that all tech-death albums require. Two more throwaway instrumentals find their way into the insipid onslaught, standing out in no way but admittedly aiding Past’s flow by providing breathers. Not much to talk about in the way of standout moments, here, as you’ll see everything coming from a mile off.

For the record, I don’t think this record sucks. “Treading Beneath” is a killer track imbued with the faintest of Eastern flavors, and “Proxy War” is just straight gangsta. These guys know exactly what they’re doing, and that’s what makes my damnation of Past so painful: none of it’s bad, but almost all of it’s boring, a well-executed reanimation of the ghosts of tech-death past. Sure, these guys can noodle and blast their way through an album like everyone else, but did they need to? This isn’t a debut or even the stereotypical sophomore slump, this is full-length #3, and I definitely expected more than this. Ultimately, Past, Present… Torture serves as an exercise in irony, reliving the glory days of tech-death yore without so much as a second thought toward innovation, and this particular dude cannot abide. Sure, it sounds killer, but it sounded just as good when bands A-Z² did the same thing. Somewhere, there is a dead horse beaten into an unrecognizable pulp, and we have Nervecell to blame.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Lifeforce Records
Websites: nervecell.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/nervecell
Releases WorldwideAugust 25th, 2017

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  • The Akerstache

    Fun fact: This is the fifth time in AMG history that the word “gangsta” has been used in a review.

    I don’t have anything else to contribute, I just saw that and wanted to see how many times it was used.

    • Master of Muppets

      Oh man, you’re gonna get put to work.

    • Yolo Swaggins

      Also, Steel Druhm has used it 3 out of the 5 times. Not to mention that he as also sponsored Master of Muppets to use the word once again.

      • Yolo Swaggins

        Also, the word ‘torture’ has been used in 173 different reviews. This is fun…

        • I bet more than half of those uses come from Madam X.

          • Yolo Swaggins

            We should do something about her. This website is supposed to be family friendly, goddammit!

          • I’m not bringing it up. She scares me.

          • Yolo Swaggins

            I guess we better hope she doesn’t discover this thread…

          • Master of Muppets

            Oh snap… Yeah, my saved-the-day card can only be played for so long, and certainly won’t stand up to any wrath incurred by the Madam Queen of Anger… I shall continue to yo where I see fit, but I’ll keep pop radio of the past in the past.
            For now.

        • sir_c

          Coincidentally, these were all metalcore reviews

      • Master of Muppets

        I’ve got sponsorship?!

        • Yolo Swaggins

          A sponsored account, at least. Unless you’re secretly Druhm?

          • He is not. Nor will he grow up to be.

          • Yolo Swaggins

            A chill fills the room…

          • Master of Muppets

            This day may or may not have been foretold in days long since passed, always in hushed tones and with eyes firmly facing the ground.

          • This is probably as good a time as any to mention we took out a fairly enormous life insurance policy on you, Muppet. Just standard HR protocol really.

          • Master of Muppets

            Well, sorry to thwart that scheme, but surviving is what I do. I am not about to give up or stop when I can just work harder. No, I will indeed survive. I will make it, I will survive and keep on doing so.
            It’s my destiny, yo.

          • die.

          • Yolo Swaggins

            Do you have a deathwish? Druhm’s coming for you…

          • Master of Muppets

            I saved you all from horrors you couldn’t handle that you don’t even know of, the likes of which I shall speak no more on, but know this: you people need me.
            We ain’t
            Goin nowhere

          • Yolo Swaggins

            Someone take his keyboard away from him.

          • Master of Muppets

            Well that’s the thing, this is my phone.
            If I feel like leaving, you aren’t going to make me stay. No, soon you’ll be finding that I can run, I can hide, and I can escape, my dude.
            Hope you all have good strong arteries!

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Yo

          • Master of Muppets

            More like hijacked. I don’t think he actually knew I made it this far…
            Until now. Damn it.

      • The Akerstache

        Thanks to this new evidence, I’ve now discovered the first known picture of Steely D’s face.

        http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/160bf2ce85e4e3cc47366af354d8fe168e566c45c48f42724b4af865d7059af3.jpg

        • Ah, my college hip-hop phase. Blingpanzee.

      • Master of Muppets

        Fun fact, I’ve actually been delivered a beating most severe by His Gorillaness specifically for my lapses into street speak. Case in point, I’m almost certain that a yo was edited out in this very review. My hood words is mine, homie, and some day they may cost me dearly.
        I ain’t scurred.

  • SoLeftISeeRight

    So that’s what Tank Abbott is doing these days!

  • hallowed

    Not sure about the tech death tag, as this feels much more of a thrashy affair and not nearly enough tiddly-diddly.

    Their first album is solid, so I’ll give this one a couple of spins.

    • Master of Muppets

      There’s definitely a thrash element that perhaps I should have touched on a bit, but ultimately whatever genre I or anybody else attributes to them is irrelevant: it’s been done before, by the bands already listed and like a million more, no matter what you call it. Not bad at all, just not stand out, at all.

  • Ferrous Beuller

    Neversell.

  • Thatguy

    Band photo says ‘fuck you and your puny opinion’ but fuck you guys, the newbie is right. This is generic.

    • Name’s Dalton

      Oh there you are. Where have you been?

      • Thatguy

        Iceland.

        • [not a Dr]

          Refilling the band photometer with lava? A good thing too: some of the recent band pics seem to have been taken with the intent of breaking it with great prejudice.

          • Thatguy

            They’ll be sorry.

  • Here’s Johnny

    Doesn’t do anything new for sure but its well produced, professionally played kickassery all the same. Isn’t 80’s rehash(thrash).

    Deserves a 3 imo.

    • Master of Muppets

      If it had the same level of skill but was more unique, I would have given it a 3, at least a 2.5.

  • Master of Muppets

    I should probably note that the promo had the instrumental intro titled as “Intro”, further exploration has revealed that it appears on the album as the infinity sign.

  • ToddRob64

    Crashing back to Earth after a second review 4.0, almost seems intentional….. In other news, you guys have The Haunted’ new one up for review?

    • Master of Muppets

      I’m thankful this was all I got, I keep getting metalcore threats.