Ahtme – Mephitic Review

It’s hard to believe considering my current taste, but back in the mid 00s I consumed all the tech death I could. I devoured Arsis, Deeds of Flesh, Origin, and all the other bands who were just coming into their own in the midst of MySpace and metalcore. My tastes have changed since then, but it doesn’t take much to make me give a genre another try. And by “doesn’t take much,” I mean a Monday night death metal show two years ago that just happened to be taking place at my favorite bar in town. Ahtme weren’t the top band on the bill, but they sure were the best. After their set, one of their members noticed I enjoyed it so much that he came over and gave me a sticker with their band logo on it, which I still have happily displayed on a speaker about a foot away from the computer I’m typing this on. They made me a fan that night and thus I readily snapped up this Kansas City quartet’s second album Mephitic when it caught my eye in the promo bin.

After doing more research on the band for this review, it turns out Ahtme have more experience than I realized. While they’ve been playing music under this name since 2015, their origins actually date back to 2005, when they called themselves The Roman Holiday. With so many years of refinement, I guess it makes sense that their music is so good. Simply put, Ahtme play the kind of tech death that I love, the kind that keeps things intricate without forgetting to incorporate some very direct and accessible ideas. As is prerequisite for the genre, the band are incredibly proficient musicians and have no shortage of lightning quick riffs to blind you with. For evidence of this, look no further than opener “Swarm of Fools,” which rushes right in with leads that dart all over the fretboard. Yet it doesn’t take long before “Swarm” locks into a groovy melodic riff that recalls Psycroptic, while many other songs like “Dent” feature plenty of fast and blunt grooves that recall later Decapitated in the best way possible.

The band sound tight as hell and while they seem to prefer grooves over blast beats, that doesn’t mean they’re any less relentless. In fact, sixth track “Hair of the Hog” is the first time I recall hearing any cleanly picked guitars, and even those don’t last long before the band deliver some rapid squealing notes that sound like a swine getting slaughtered. At the same time, Ahtme incorporate just enough variety across these nine tracks to keep things engaging. “No Stone Sacred” features some slower chords that remind me of being 17 and trying to wrap my head around Anata (those were the days), while “Valley of the Gourds” works in some gooey marching chugs that recall Deeds of Flesh. Yet it’s early highlight “Node” that’s one of my favorite tracks, with its quick tremolos mixed with some turn-on-a-dime rhythms that remind me of Archspire.

Still, the band’s bread and butter are their mix of fast melodic riffs and quick roaring grooves, with the moments I listed above sometimes feeling like little more than minor footnotes that the band work into this formula to keep things from feeling too homogeneous. For another minor quibble, while the vocalist utilizes a nice throaty roar that suits the music well, his delivery rarely changes and overall I just don’t find his performance all that interesting. Fortunately the production is pretty good. While it’s easy to make out everything, the album thankfully avoids sounding too clinical. The drums in particular sound quite natural, while the guitars have a nice spongy quality and the bass feels quite meaty.

For someone who doesn’t listen to much tech death, I was pleasantly surprised by Ahtme. When I saw them live I remember banging my head to groove after groove and I’m thankful that on record they not only retain this energy, but in some ways even surpass it. Mephitic has plenty of fun and fresh riffs while remaining just direct enough that even if you’re not paying attention to the intricacies, you’re still bound to have a good time. The result is an easy recommendation for all tech death fans and something I’m sure I’ll be revisiting plenty in the months to come.1

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Unique Leader Records
Website: facebook.com/ahtmekc
Releases Worldwide: July 24th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. And yes, I’m aware I don’t listen to a lot of tech death and this album may be “outside my wheelhouse.” Don’t Ahtme bro.
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