Most of the time, technical death and progressive death pretty much go hand in hand. Anyone with the chops to play at breakneck speeds and shred with the best of them will want to show off not just their technical skill, but their ability to bring something new to the table, and this mentality has only gained adherents as the style has flourished. But occasionally there arises a group of musicians who want nothing more than to play in the style of Cannibal Corpse but do it at twice the speed. That’s where Omnihility fits into the picture. Their approach to tech-death combines the manifold chromatic riffing of ‘90s death with the speed and punishment that define modern brutal death metal. Is Deathscapes of the Subconscious a triumph worthy of those who have come before it, or is Onmihility simply a revamped rehash?
As one might predict, it’s somewhere in between. “Molecular Resurrection” opens the album and standing at over seven minutes long, it’s quite the endeavor. With no escape in sight, it careens through hellish riff after hellish riff in an unceasing storm of blastbeats and satanic growls. Its climactic semi-melodic ending is exactly the high mark that it’s meant to be, but the song would definitely be more effective with a bit of fat trimmed off. The same could be said of “Lost Sands of Antiquity,” which is built around repetition of their best attempt at a chorus, and of the title track, which kicks off with an excellent modulated melodic hook. While “Deathscapes of the Subconscious” is an effective and enjoyable song moment-to moment, it’s a bit of a mystery why it takes over six minutes to do little more than what it does in the last three.
And thus we come upon a rather unfortunate theme of Deathscapes of the Subconscious – it sometimes feels like the brutal death equivalent of foie gras [A bourgeoisie paté made from the liver of duck or goose — Steel Gourmet], and at times one can almost hear the band frantically funneling the corn of death metal down the gullet of the fat duck that is Deathscapes of the Subconscious. The band knows that riffs are the staple of their music, so they’ve written a lot of them, but neglected to take out the ones that weren’t great. The ones that are great stand out more because of this, but occasionally, as in the case of the aforementioned hook of “Deathscapes,” they get a bit overplayed. To the band’s credit though, riffs are rarely completely recycled. Even in the title track, the hook returns many times in the first half, but the end of the song sees it being played palm-muted, which makes it a lot harder to latch onto. I didn’t even notice its return the first few times I listened to the song.
The shorter songs shine because of their relative brevity and appropriate use of repetition. “Disseminate” is one of the album’s best, and though it’s close to five minutes long, it stays fresh, feels more open and has enough space for a prominent bassline. The two-part subdued instrumental “Ancient Ruins Forlorn” also lends a bit of space to the album, although it’s a pretty jarring transition to go from the brutal Nile-influenced riffing that forms the album’s backbone and an acoustic guitar solo. Another notable Nile similarity is the very slight bass presence on the album. Although it’s usually there if you focus on it, the low-end is, in the long tradition of tech-death, slightly neglected in favor of a wall of sound.
Despite the lack of low-end and pushed-to-the-limit production, the album sounds quite good. Although the drums occasionally suffer and there’s some pretty obvious, though not severe, peaking in a few songs, I’m not anywhere near as upset with the mastering on this album as I have been with other recent releases that Zack Ohren manned the knobs on (for a thought provoking discussion with Mr. Ohren on this very topic, see the comment section for Fallujah). Brutal death should be punishing, and that’s been brought out here without too severely damaging fidelity.
While there’s plenty to like about Deathscapes of the Subconscious, its long songs and bullish refusal to deviate from a core sound that’s been around for twenty years make it an album best attacked in chunks. I alternate between being really impressed with the writing and really annoyed by it. While it’s not Origin-level excellent, I liked Deathscapes a lot more than I expected to, and Omnihility is now a band I’ll gladly turn to when I feel the craving for tech-death that ignores progressivity as completely as it embraces brutality.