Hey loyal readers and metal enthusiasts, do you like djent? How about metalcore? Switzerland? Or perhaps Mycelia‘s self proclaimed moniker of progressive deathcore? If you answered yes to these questions, you are potentially in for a tasty treat via the band’s fourth LP, entitled Apex. With such genre tags commonly used as punching bags by the trve metal folk, keeping an open mind was an essential element in tackling my latest review assignment. I can’t say I’m a big fan of djent or metalcore, though I’ve dabbled in the past, and plenty of bands I’ve enjoyed over the years have had elements of the styles. I’d never experienced Mycelia‘s chunky brand of modern, angst-ridden metal previously. So after spinning Apex and collecting my thoughts, have the experienced Swiss six-piece overridden my skepticism and gained a new fan?
Firstly, credit where credit is due, these guys are certainly not devoid of musical talent as far as their accomplished instrumentation is concerned. The whopping thirteen songs comprising Apex have their share of diverse twists and tight execution, with an off-kilter musicianship and futuristic modern sheen present throughout the album. Mycelia aren’t afraid to dabble in some experimentation either, showcasing a confident and adventurous spirit. Efficient instrumental nuggets “East of Eden” and “Flak” represent decent examples of Mycelia‘s short-circuiting djenty riffage, stuttering grooves, and space-age melodies. Unfortunately, these are merely small components of a complex but malfunctioning machine. Overall, Apex comes across as overloaded, generic, and over-produced, an audio equivalent of cheap, shiny plastic, as Mycelia concoct an oddball stew of djent, metalcore, prog, and nu-metal.
Unpleasant opener “Eight Milligrams” gets things off to a decidedly rocky start, showcasing the album’s reliance on cheesy synths and questionable vocal choices, delivered in tandem by Marc Fürer and Lukas Villiger. I’m all for a diverse, multi-faceted vocal arsenal, but when virtually none of the vocal choices land, it immediately brings the album down a handful of pegs. Painfully dull, generic screams and forced growls are backed by oodles of nu-metal angst, cheeseball cleans, and whiny variations in between. It’s goofy, all-over-the-shop, and, at times, plain terrible. The music itself fares better, but not by a great margin. Aside from the occasional head-bobbing riff or interesting rhythm, such as parts of “Lawnmower Man,” much of the material is flat and forgettable, the song-writing bleeding into a convoluted and often bizarre mess. Sounding like a strange and misguided attempt at a southern American ditty, “Holler” is downright confusing and embarrassing, a real “what the fuck?” moment. Dabbling in djenty balladry, “Once Upon a Lie” is as awful as its title suggests, corny as fuck, with laughably bad vocals.
Along with the flaws outlined above, Apex is too damn long when considering the lack of compelling or memorable material on offer. Aside from the subpar riffage and atrocious vocals of the nearly-eight-minute-long “Slip-Along Jack McTravis,” the songs are reasonable in length. However, there are simply too many weak links to justify how many made the final cut, beefing the album out to nearly fifty minutes. The production is another element that bothers me. I fully understand that thick, crisp production is par for the course for djent, but everything sounds so sugary sweet, polished, and shiny that it lacks a human element and comes across as dull, soulless, and compressed to match.
I tried with Apex, I really did. I sincerely attempted to look past the more troubling elements and give this thing a fair shake, embracing the handful of positive elements and the talents of the individuals musicianship. Yet the album’s flaws were too overwhelming to ignore. The music contained within sounds emotionally shallow, overly clinical, and synthetic, attached to clunky songs that go nowhere fast, lacking decent hooks to sustain interest. Mycelia‘s multi-vocal approach misses the mark terribly, while the sterile production leaves a lot to be desired. Apex is a firm pass for me and I can only imagine the most die-hard djentaphiles will get much pleasure out of Mycelia‘s latest jam.