We live in a time where everything old is new again, and metal music is no exception. We have retro-stoner rock, retro-thrash, Scooby-Doobie Doom, and now… retro-tech-death? With the creation and success of Horrendous, many nimble-fingered, musically-acrobatic musicians are screaming bloody gore and exploring their more Human side to bring back a classic sound with all of the necessary upgrades to keep things somewhat fresh. After a couple of EPs that have seen the band grow in terms of both musicianship and songwriting, Chicago’s Nucleus throw their own gauntlets down with their debut full-length, Sentient. Have these guys got what it takes to stand atop mountains made of crystal, or are they better off applying their overactive imaginations elsewhere?
After a short intro, “Dosadi” rumbles forth, and it immediately becomes apparent that Nucleus are reaching different influences besides the ones Chuck Schuldiner and company created. Rather, this is dipping into Atheist‘s warping pools of water, and even diving down into the depths of Timeghoul. The riffs penned by guitarists Dave Muntean and Dan Ozcanli are angular and spacey while retaining some heft when needed. Muntean’s growls eschew Schuldiner’s trademark rasp for more Morbid Angel-esque cavernous growls, fitting the music nicely. Ryan Reynolds (not that Ryan Reynolds) does a great job replicating the riffs, channeling Blacky’s (ex-Voivod) sick tone. We get a very tasty solo near the end, and already I’m hearing glimpses of promise from this young band.
And it’s those very glimpses that are going to propel Nucleus forward. “Ancient” has an infectious riff that wouldn’t seem out of place on Atheist‘s Unquestionable Presence, followed by a tripped out, otherworldly solo. Album standout “Swarm” has a peculiar-yet-effective stomp from 0:31-0:52, evoking the sensation of being attacked by a hive of angry, bio-mechanical insectoid things [Like Yar’s revenge? – Steel Druhm]. “Extirpate,” the slowest song on here, hooks the listener into a nice groove, giving the music a chance to breathe. Speaking of which, this is my main complaint with Sentient. There’s so much angular riffing, so much spacey-ness, that it all starts to sound the same after a while. And while this an enjoyable listen, there’s very little to differentiate between tracks, and this is hindering a band that otherwise shows major potential.
One thing to note is the production, which is both lush and dynamic. The only thing that bothered me about it was the drum sound of Pat O’Hara, which is a bit muffled. Otherwise, the guitars cut with the right amount of sharpness, and that bass tone is so sick, distorted, and chunky. I love the bass on here! But again, while Sentient shows a band growing, the songs aren’t quite there yet. From what I hear, though, these guys are on the right path, and there are some signs of greater things to come.
While not completely bowled over, I found my time with Sentient to be mostly enjoyable. With some tweaks here and there, and some stronger writing, I can see Nucleus spoken of as highly as the likes of Horrendous and Gorguts. I’ll keep my ear out for the next one. Promising.