Polyptych - Defying the MetastasisThe forefathers of death metal were truly spoiled when it came time to come up with a kick-ass band name. The genre’s progenitors ran wild with synonyms for various acts of violence and bits of viscera (not to mention those nerds who pulled inspiration from Warhammer 40k), but when the thesaurus has fallen to tatters, where does a budding young death metal band pull its inspiration from? In the case of Chicago’s Polyptych (\pol-ip-tik\ n a work of art composed of several connected panels), the answer is to forego the gore and dedicate their moniker to what makes their sound unique. Sporting a unique brand of blackened tech-death with touches of doom metal, Polyptych may not have the sickest band name this side of Florida, but that matters naught because Defying the Metastasis is, musically and thematically, really damn good.

Polyptych’s previous release Illusorium carried a weightier feel than this one thanks to a decent helping of doom metal, and while that aspect of their sound has been dialed back, Defying the Metastasis is no less effective. The band’s ability to seamlessly blend death and black metal recalls Akercocke and Voices primarily, but with an added layer of modern tech death a la Gorod and a touch of widdly Krallice riffs on the black metal end of things. Polyptych would have had something special on their hands if they had stopped there, but with the addition of occasional, subtle synths and industrial ambiance to underscore the dense, winding riffs, they manage to add a layer of nuance to their stacked sound.  The result is an album that doesn’t sound quite like anything else out there, and with excellent lyrics chronicling life in a fictional totalitarian state (which reads like literature at times), Defying the Metastasis oozes with confidence on both a compositional and conceptual level.

Unique though Polyptych may be, Defying the Metastasis is still a death metal record at its core, and at nearly an hour in length it’s a lot of death metal to digest. The entire package is so solid throughout though that it’s difficult to pinpoint tracks that could have been trimmed to facilitate a shorter run time, and I have a feeling that a bit more diversity would have made the length more palatable. That’s not to say that this album is anywhere close to monotonous, but considering the two best tracks on the record are also its most unusual (the doomy, almost Tryptikonian “Crimson Halls” and the post-black metal influenced title cut), the near-constant barrage of tech-death feels slightly like a missed opportunity.

Polyptch 2016

I realize that an hour of tech-death likely sounds like an immediate turn-off for the Necrophagistphobic out there, but rest assured that what Polyptych aimed for was a complex and richly layered album that feels far less masturbatory than their contemporaries. Fully explaining how the band accomplished this requires digging into the production, and oh my god, Defying the Metastasis sounds fucking incredible. The mix is balanced perfectly, with the bass serving as prominent a role as the guitars. With the band performing three or four unique guitar and bass parts simultaneously for much of the album, it could have sounded like a catastrophic mess, but considering that each component is totally discernible throughout, I’d call this a production miracle. Add in stunning use of stereo sound and an above-average DR for the genre, as well as lightly fuzzed tones and punchy drums that appropriately straddle the line between black and death metal, and you have what’s likely the best sounding death metal record this year.

Defying the Metastasis is not a perfect album, and I feel that Polyptych has a bit of tinkering to do in the variety department before they can compose their magnum opus. As I’ve now listened to both this and the band’s last album extensively (yeah, they made me a fan), however, I can say with confidence that Polyptych is a supremely talented group that doesn’t shy away from album to album experimentation and will continue to perfect their sound. Until then, grab your wallet and a good pair of headphones; Defying the Metastasis stands with this year’s Chthe’ilist and Blood Incantation offerings as a shining example of forward thinking death metal in 2016, and I can’t wait to see what these guys cook up in the future.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Blood Harvest Records
Websites: facebook.com/Polyptych
Releases Worldwide: October 14th, 2016

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  • The Unicorn

    Did you just reference Akercoke and Tryptikon? Oh goodie! Immediately checking this out.

    That Blood Incantation is the cats ass.

  • SegaGenitals

    You sold me. Sign me up.

  • Reese Burns

    Are you sure that the October 14 date is right? It’s been out on iTunes for a while now.

    • Eldritch Elitist

      It was recorded and released independently back in May but was only just picked up for a label release.

  • [not a Dr]

    The review makes me want to like this, can’t wait to get mindless tasks to do at work to listen to this.
    Also, the album cover looks like a motivational poster.

    • OzanCan

      Actually, the album cover looks like a scenery from Blade Runner movie. Dystopic cyberpunk m/

      • [not a Dr]

        Yes, but it’s still presented format as a [de?]motivational poster.

        • OzanCan

          I see what you mean :)

  • jersey devil

    Excellent album. The review is right on too, although for me Akercocke and Voices are not bands that come to mind in reference to Polyptych.

    • Eldritch Elitist

      Glad you’re digging it! I referenced Akercocke and Voices because I think both bands blend death and black metal in a similar way to Polyptych – the approach is very familiar, even though the core sound is different.

      • jersey devil

        Cool-I think I’ll go back to Akercocke and Voices and check them out anew.

  • DrChocolate

    Dammit! I don’t have the money for all of this! DEP, Khemmis, Ars Morendi, and now this?! Not to mention Ulcerate at the end of the month, and despite their historical ups and downs Dark Tranquillity is fully in buy first, decide later territory for me (see also the upcoming Testament album). Ugh, first world metal problems.

    • GardensTale

      If the new Testament kicks as much ass as the last two it’s a no brainer for me

      • The Unicorn

        Its pretty damn good.

    • Dr. Wvrm

      Atoma is definitely a return to form for them, don’t sleep on it.

      • DrChocolate

        Seriously, you guys are not helping at all.

  • GardensTale

    I’m not too big on tech death but these guys did not forget the groove. Fucking love that bass!

    • Eldritch Elitist

      This is definitely tech death for people who don’t like tech death. Or do like tech death. Hell, just metal fans in general.

  • mindbleach

    This is all well and good, but if you guys don’t review the new Amaranthe album I’ll be very disappointed, I know you love that shit.

    • GardensTale

      There’s a new Amaranthe album?! WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME?!? I still have to get oil for my torch and sharpen my pitchfork!

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Took you long enough. This record kicks major ass.

    • Are we really rioting over a 5 day late review? Have we lost all sense of perspective due to the lack of September’s AOTM?

      • André Snyde Lopes

        The album was released back in May on the band’s own bandcamp. This is technically a “rerelease” through Blood Harvest.

        But I’m guessing BH only did the dirty work of sending out the promo to AMG now. I saw this featured on NCS back in May.

  • Wow, this is quite awesome.

  • after reading the review, I decided to check em out on bandcamp, and yeah yeah digital I know, but $11 for all three of their releases is pretty sweet.

  • Mr T

    Good stuff!

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    I really love it when you can hear the bass in Technical Death Metal!

    • sir_c

      especially when it’s fretless. But any audible bass will do :-)

  • Matt McMadden

    It’s a great record. I’m still waiting for my copy from Blood Harvest.