I fucking love tech-death. When the style is done well it’s an exhilarating ride, spiking the adrenaline and creating an intoxicating blend of technical wizardry, memorability and brutality. Yet sadly, more often than not the style is inundated with bands content to cram their technical skills down your throat, tossing any semblance of songwriting skills out the window in a flood of over-the-top, soulless wankery. After toiling in the underground for many years, Finland’s De Lirium’s Order return to unleash their fourth LP, and first since 2012, in the shape of Singularity. So with equal parts optimism and trepidation I dive into the swirling sci-fi abyss of the De Lirium’s Order experience, hoping to get that giddy rush of the elite class of tech-death heroes.
Boasting a dramatic sound, complete with symphonic and progressive embellishments, along with typical bombast expected from the style, De Lirium’s Order attack their respective instruments with finger shredding and limb exhausting flair and exuberance. A short instrumental opener segues into “Ayatollah” and the impressive percussive assault and sweeping layers of speedy technicality can’t quite overcome a clunky structure and lack of potent or memorable riffs. Across the album there’s an elaborate assortment of contributors and credits, adding extra embellishments, such as the heavy use of synths and the melodramatic clean vocals off M. Salo. The strong individual performances, combined with the band’s ambitious streak and melodic undercurrents, should potentially reap greater rewards, but as an engaging experience, De Lirium’s Order can’t nail the landing with much consistency or fluidity. There’s an awkwardness to many of the song structures, and the convolution and often cheesy integration of piano and synths detracts from the band’s more aggressive counterattacks.
Flashes of inspiration crop up from time to time, such as the absorbing early section of the Necrophagist-like charge of “Surfaced,” before it loses momentum and plunges down a proggy wormhole. These frustrating momentum killers detract from the more promising material on offer, as when the band knuckle down and deliver bombastic bursts of thrashy, heavy-hitting tech-death, like parts of “Orion’s Cry” and closer “The End of Time,” there’s partial enjoyment to be had. Vocally, the rather generic and occasionally forced sounding death growls are decent enough, though the solid enunciation proves detrimental from a lyrical perspective, while the deep, semi-spoken word moments are a tad cringe-worthy. The technically impressive clean vocals add welcome variation and occasionally recall Devin Townsend, yet don’t really gel well with me, though that’s more a matter of personal taste.
One of the common and often valid complaints aimed at the tech-death subgenre is the perceived lack of emotional connection as well as the soulless and clinical attributes often attached. Unfortunately these are traits that hamper Singularity. This can perhaps be a little unfair in questioning the integrity, soul and passion the musicians put into their work. Whether it rings true or not, there’s an empty, almost artificial feel to the album that makes it difficult to become fully immersed or emotionally invested in the material. It doesn’t help that the song-writing, despite the usual flair and technical skills at the forefront, struggles to make a lasting or memorable impression beyond the occasional standout moment. Furthermore De Lirium’s Order are guilty of bloated self-indulgence, while the crisp, clean production job is a little too plastic and dull for my tastes.
Singularity falls short of my expectations of what a strong tech-death album should sound like. The vocals don’t sit well, production is flat and clinical, while the impressive instrumental prowess is unable to compensate for the shortcomings in the song-writing department. De Lirium’s Order certainly are a talented bunch, but unfortunately Singularity doesn’t possess the songwriting qualities, cohesion or structural strengths to avoid becoming another tech-death also ran and victim of the pitfalls of the style.