Almost three years ago, as a probationary noob, I was tasked to review the bloated, brickwalled behemoth that was Allegaeon’s Proponent for Sentience. I argued that taken as a whole, the 72-minute album was beyond overwritten and overwrought even before the utterly crushed production ruined what was left. It turned out to be my least popular opinion since I argued in high school that metal bands without growls or screams were still metal (that actually happened.) Since I’ve obviously been getting too much love and support from the readership here, I decided to take the follow-up on as well. Let the dissent begin.
What has never been a problem with Allegaeon is their technical skill. These guys know how to handle their instruments, the six strings, in particular. Complex riffs and swirling solos blend together in a maelstrom of intense, sweeping guitar wizardry. The drumming is ferocious and quite technical, using the full kit with precise timing. The bass is under-served, but occasionally pops up to fill a hole when the guitars let up for a minute as if to let us know “hey, I’m still around!” The vocals are probably the least interesting element in their catalog, consisting mostly of a rather limited guttural growl that can’t muster much pitch variation, but the sparse cleans and screams are welcome switch-ups.
No, the problem with Allegaeon was never in their execution. It’s in their homogeneity, an issue they still haven’t managed to resolve. To sketch the issue in hyperbole, Apoptosis contains three songs: the intro, the flamenco track, and the same track nine times. There are few fundamental differences between each of the tracks here, due to the limited growls, re-use of certain drum patterns, and similar sounding solos across the album. When you can freely swap one sweep-picking section for another, something is simply not right. There’re exceptions, like late-album highlight “Stellar Tidal Disruption” with a pretty killer chorus and the occasional clean vocals, but even these are small beacons in a vast ocean of everything sounding the same. Though the songs are generally more streamlined and less bloated than those on the predecessor, and the album is a merciful 15 minutes shorter, the positive effects are diminished by this unimaginative songwriting approach.
The other major issue that Allegaeon seem intent never to resolve is the fucking production.1 To be fair, it’s marginally better than the migraine of Proponent; I can listen to this one end to end without a pounding headache. That is where it stops, however, because Apoptosis is still brickwalled to a pulp. It’s absolutely a major factor in the lack of variety because all the layers are crushed into one another like in one of those hydraulic press videos, so any of the details setting the separate skill sets of the musicians apart from each other are lost.
I am fully prepared to receive another tidal wave of discord from die-hard Allegaeon fans when this goes up. I anticipate remarks about mindless bashing and trying to stir up controversy. But you know what’s really controversial? Musicians of this caliber, with the backing of a label this size, handing in mediocre albums with shit production time and time again. By all accounts, Apoptosis should be a slam dunk. Allegaeon know how to write visceral, complex riffs, pulverizing drum lines and engaging bass compositions. But they still don’t know how to write a full album. The best I can do is that it’s a less exhausting spin than Proponent for Sentience, and brother, that is pretty fucking sad.