Complexity is a tricky thing, particularly in music. How much is too much? When do you decide you haven’t added enough? What seems like forever ago, I took an introductory course in graphic design principles with a professor I would later hold as one of the foremost influences on my current work ethic. He once challenged us to (and I am paraphrasing here), “resist adding elements, colors, lines, etc. as soon as you realize the work is compelling.” Enter Equipoise, based out of Pittsburgh and made up of a veritable who’s who of the death metal spectrum—Sanjay Kumar of Wormhole and Perihelion on guitars; Chason Westmoreland (ex-Hate Eternal, ex-The Faceless) manning the kit; Jimmy Pitts from Eternity’s End and The Fractured Dimension setting the ivories ablaze; Hugo Doyon-Karout (Beyond Creation) decapitating the fret from his bass; Virulent Depravity‘s Nick Padovani on guitars both electric and nylon, along with Phil Tougas (Chthe’ilist, Serocs, Zealotry) playing the same; and finally Stevie Boiser (ex-Vale of Pnath, Inferi, Tethys) taking hold of both lyrical and vocal duties. And that’s not even scratching the surface, what with the ELEVEN guest spots included within. What in the actual heck is happening over there in Pittsburgh???
Excess, that’s what. If you thought my intro was indulgent, just wait until you hear Demiurgus, the super-duper-group’s massive debut. Let’s add a few more bold doodads here to kick off the description of this record’s overall sound: Fleshgod Apocalypse, Inferi, Gorod, Augury. But wait! Rodrigo y Gabriela and Native Construct are also included free of charge! Yes, flamenco and prog-jazz influences find some purchase on a record already flush with unearthly tech-death integrated in tandem with lush compositions and a heaping helping of hooks for a full hour and four minutes.
Thankfully Demiurgus is an absolute joy to behold in no small part due to infallible musicianship. Stealing the record in particular are Jimmy and Hugo with their virtuoso piano and bass work. Spin three of the five instrumentals and marvel at stellar piano sweeps and arpeggios (not to mention Jimmy’s spots on “Sovereign Sacrifices” and SOTY contender “Dualis Flamel”) and especially brilliant bass noodles on “A Suit of My Flesh.” To list all of the immense guest performances would be absolutely nuts, so suffice it to say everyone involved make memorable marks on an album so full of wank that the resulting emission makes Holdeneye‘s look like that of an eye-dropper (see “Dualis Flamel” and “Squall of Souls”).1 Unlike many albums specializing in the masturbatory sciences, Demiurgus leaves you lusting after more thanks to all efforts servicing the songs rather than the egos.
With albums as densely packed as this, the devil lurks in the details. Equipoise are masters of those details, as the swift shifts from tech-death mania to flamenco warmth on “Alchemic Web of Deceit” clearly demonstrate. The fretless bass proffering broad swaths of counterpoint across the record allows listeners to marvel at how groovy and accessible songs like “Sovereign Sacrifices,” “Waking Divinity,” and “Squall of Souls” are despite the quantity of layers present. Carefully curated track organization helps maintain this hour-plus train’s full-tilt chugging as well, with instrumentals (“Shrouded” and “Ecliptic” being standouts) providing a nice breather in between rounds.
All that said there are a couple of nitpicks, as there would be on a record as ungodly ambitious as this. Firstly, a couple of tracks can at times bleed together or at least sound oddly similar to one another (“Sigil Insidious” can sometimes remind me of “Sovereign Sacrifices” for example). Secondly, the instrumentals could’ve blended with the proper tracks better. They all seem to end rather abruptly, save for the closing track, and therefore run the risk of pulling me out of the experience.
Nevertheless, Equipoise were able to generate a majestic example of musical design that goes completely against the sage words of my college professor (if you are out there reading this, know that I cherish your invaluable tutelage and acquaintance). Instead of restricting this record to the level of “compelling,” this group wrenched the dial to twenty, landing Demiurgus on the far edge of Lost Marbles™ territory. Should any justice remain in this jaded world, I hope Equipoise never retrieve those marbles.
- Fuck it, here is the full list, because they all earn their keep:
Julien “Nutz” Deyres from Gorod on “A Suit of My Flesh”
Christian Muenzner of Alkaloid on “Sigil Insidious”
Malcom Pugh of Inferi and Colin Butler of Virulent Depravity on “Dualis Flamel”
Colin Butler again playing a steel-string on “Eve of the Promised Day”
Nate Miller (The Ritual Aura) with a fucking saw and an erhu, with Ryan Cho playing viola (also The Ritual Aura) on “Ecliptic”
Tyler Cox on “Cast into Exile”
Denis Shvarts (Dark Matter Secret), Jack Fliegler (Singularity) and Zach Hohn (original 2nd guitarist of Equipoise, not with the band anymore, apparently) on “Ouroboric” ↩