The feeling that we’ve heard it all before has never been so persistent. A decade ago it was stagnant melodeath, then re-thrash, then retro doom, and now we’re in the middle of a burly old-school death metal revival. Where are the progressive bands willing to try something new and write the next chapter? The snarky answer: “ripping off Pink Floyd and Yes.” But there are others. One such contender, Portland’s Aseitas dropped one of the most puzzling death metal releases of the year with their self-titled debut.
Aseitas experiments with tricky rhythms, atonality, and noise to create something genuinely progressive. The band’s debt to Gojira is obvious when “Trench/Altar” chugs and squeals, but when the song collapses the reference point turns toward a slothful Pyrrhon. “The Orchard” feints towards Godfleshy industrial tones before ascending into a glistening placid calm. The band’s choice to feature Kevin Hufnagel in “City of Stone” reinforces an already obvious Gorguts link, and the man’s performance might as well have been in Colored Sands itself. Yet it comes after a Devin Townsend Project bridge riff and precedes the beautiful and strange instrumental, “Prophet.” Few death metal albums—let alone ones on the lineage of Obscura—have ever sounded this creative and unique.
Instead of pursuing violence and extremity, Aseitas strikes a balance between calm, damp instrumental passages and searing but equally ambivalent bouts of death metal. It’s caught between worlds but moves each of them to fit its position. Sure-footed musicianship underpins an atmosphere of uncertainty and transition, and songs move effortlessly between phases in a misty blur. Darkness and light coexist here, but neither ever becomes absolute, instead combining into an unfamiliar rainbow of novel shades.
At its best, Aseitas brings back memories of my teenage years spent discovering the nooks and crannies of metal via every bedroom project that wouldn’t charge me for their music. In the days before death metal became my go-to, I heard far more records like this—records that did not project a single identity but embraced incongruent sounds. Yes, they’re often the work of inexperienced bands and have the flaws that often follow early artistic output, but some of these strange, not-quite-thought-out records still stick with me just as Aseitas has.
Despite experimental structures, Aseitas crawls through nearly an hour of music without ever sounding stale. The album is fresh and pulls from so many sources that you can entertain yourself for its length just trying to figure out where the band are getting their ideas from—not that you’d need to. But Aseitas is still an odd album that’s easier to connect with when you’re paying close attention to it. Its ambiguity is both its strength and the greatest barrier to enjoying the album, and its length will test listeners who don’t buy in to the band’s experimental interpretation of progressive death metal. If you do, it’s more than worth the zero dollars the band charge for it.
Tracks to Check Out: “City of Stone,” “Trench/Altar,” “Prophet”