The Malkuth Grimoire marked an exciting beginning for the star-studded line-up of Alkaloid. Escaping the imposing shadows of the band members other projects in unique and often unconventional ways, the album was very well received by myself and the metal community at large. Despite the chinks in its futuristic armory, such as the excessive bloat and ambitious but not always successful experimentation, Alkaloid emphatically proved they weren’t content to coast by with another typical tech death project. Now Hannes Grossman, Christian Münzner and co return with Liquid Anatomy. But rather than playing it safe, Alkaloid daringly expand and further refine their intriguing formula, doubling down on the prog tendencies and broadening their experimental scope. But does Liquid Anatomy feature the coherence, fluency and songwriting chops to make it a worthy follow-up and improvement over their impressive debut?
Although I still rate The Malkuth Grimoire highly, over time its flaws proved more revealing, so I was anxious to hear if the band ironed out the issues and were able to take their technically proficient and modern combination of death, prog and spacey experimentation to the elite level they hinted at on the debut. Firstly, the high-tech sci-fi atmosphere remains intact, lending the album a very sleek, modern edge that couples well with their mysterious lyricism, multi-faceted attack and laser precision musicianship. Brainy, shreddy compositions twist and turn, as the composers chart an expansive and fluid journey, from spacey psychedelia and captivating prog passages to taut and riffy, groove-driven bouts of death. While the prog and melodic elements have been upped, Alkaloid don’t neglect their death metal roots, evidenced frequently throughout Liquid Anatomy, like the explosive, blasting frenzy towards the back-end of “Interstellar Boredom,” or the extra chunky mid-paced grooves of “As Decreed By Laws Unwritten.” The progressive arrangements flow nicely, featuring impressive depth and an air of unpredictability that bodes well for repeated listens.
Morean’s potentially divisive clean vocal style is heavily utilized and his oddly robotic but intriguingly addictive style and melodies sound more assured, fitting snugly into the band’s complex and progressive arrangements. They are immediately rolled out on impressive opener “Kernel Panic,” an almost soothing prog odyssey interspersed with powerhouse growls, ripping solos and vicious bursts of muscular riffage and deathly groove. The songs are given ample room to breathe and develop, while everything sounds less clinical, yet looser and more fun. “Azagthoth” is a particularly wicked tune, the quirky and off-kilter prog-death juggernaut is beefed up with killer drumming, clever twists and memorable songwriting. There’s something about this song, and the album as a whole, that reminds me of Cynic’s excellent Traced in Air opus, more in spirit rather than sounding particularly similar musically.
While still tipping the scales at a lengthy 64 minutes, the more successful progressive forays and consistent song-writing makes Liquid Anatomy feel like a leaner, less exhaustive listen than the debut, although the largely engaging 19 minute closer “Rise of the Cephalopods” could have had a few minutes shaved for a tighter conclusion. As expected the musicianship is next level shit, yet sounds more grounded in the context of the songs, pleasantly indulgent but not overly so. Every now and again I crave a heavier section to kick in, but overall Alkaloid deftly balances mellower prog with death metal bluster. Guitarists’ Danny Tunker and Christian Münzner are a two-pronged tour de force boasting excellent chops and an array of great riffs and sizzling solos, stretching the boundaries of the Alkaloid sound (check out their gorgeous combined work and stunning soloing on the sublime and soulful title track) and deftly meshing proggy experimentation with potent death metal riffs and aggression. They each sound as if they’ve pushed themselves to the limit creatively during the album’s conception. The production gets the job done well enough, sounding a little more organic and less polished than the debut, although the industry standard compression remains.
Liquid Anatomy solidifies Alkaloid as an adventurous and unique force in the modern metal scene, successfully crafting dazzling new dimensions into their complex, genre-blurring, progressive death mindfuck. Tired of the frustratingly tiresome and soulless aspects of tech death? Or progressive metal that forgets how to sound metal? Alkaloid has you covered with another ambitious, frequently thrilling and memorable progressive death opus that will threaten inclusion on many year-end lists.