Psycroptic may be one of the best known technical death metal bands out there today. Their high profile is largely the result of the fact that they make a type of technical death metal that moves about a mile a second, but while managing to not be too abstract. The band has historically had catchy hooks and great melodic parts, while never backing down on the guitar gymnastics and with vocals that have been just as diverse and unique as the music behind it. Psycroptic is the real deal, so there was never any hesitation on my part when I got a hold of the Tazmanian band’s 5th full-length The Inherited Repression.
Oh, and I knew what I was going to get out the gate. Even with the logo gone, The Inherited Repression screams “something grim comes this way,” and when the characteristic Psycroptic legato technical riff burst out the gate at about 57 seconds into “Carriers of the Plague” I was pretty much in. The whole album is a tour de force of Psycroptic‘s unique sound. There’s the groove parts (like the opening riff of the album, the amazing stuff in the middle of “From Scribe to Ashes”), the slower “breakdowny” and acoustic parts (but, this isn’t core and they’re few and far between) and the hyper fast and techy style riffs that have been with us since the beginning (some of my favorite riffs show up in final track “The Sleeper Has Awoken” but the whole album is littered with amazing riff after amazing riff). This is the stuff that keeps me excited for every time these guys put out a record.
Another major thing about this record that blows the previous albums out of the water is the production. While 2008’s (Ob)Servant was released on Nuclear Blast, the production on it wasn’t the best. Specifically the drums were heinously replaced and the sound was immensely annoying. The Inherited Repression inherited none of these production problems and it is easily the band’s most balanced album to date. The vocals are pretty far back in the mix and it helps to focus on the whirling guitars, bass and drums which are properly mixed this time around.
But I have a big complaint and, frankly, I’m a little confused as to what’s up. Jason Peppiat replaced Chalky three records ago, and since then the vocals, while not having been as extreme, were actually a little reminiscent of Trevor Strnad’s tendency to switch it up and be really dynamic. One of the things that made Psycroptic interesting to me was the way that the vocals really matched each riff and just as dynamic as the music. Unfortunately on The Inherited Repression vocalist Peppiat has pretty much stopped doing anything that isn’t in the mid-ranged scream area. While he does have two or three different tones that he uses, the death metal growl is completely gone, as well as the more At The Gates scream that he used to do and that I really, really liked. This shouldn’t be that big a deal, right? It’s just death metal vocals. But unless the music has also lost a step (which, given that the songs are on average about 1:30 shorter than on their last record, is possible), I think that the vocals being so monotonous really has a detrimental effect on the music. While the riffs are solid, I have found that this record sags a bit in the middle, which none of the band’s previous material ever has. The only thing I can come up with is that the vocals were a lot more important than we ever gave them credit for.
I don’t want that to take away from the fact that Psycroptic is a great band and that the music on this record is pretty fucking solid. But I do feel like The Inherited Repression is a bit of a step backwards for a band that is as talented and dynamic as they come. Fans of the band will obviously still enjoy this record, but I’m not sure that it’s going to be met with as unanimous cheers and glee that the band’s previous work has.