Okay, look. Look. I get that I’m not “The Tech Death Guy” around these parts, but I have valid opinions about the genre, too, I swear! In my high school days, whenever I wasn’t practicing Helloween riffs, I was trying (in vain) to replicate Gorod licks. And records like the latter band’s Process of a New Decline and Spawn of Possession’s Noctambulant were some of the most–spun records of my teenage years. Though I no longer ingest the stuff at a ravenous rate (my doctors told me all those noodles were bad for my health), the genre still holds my interest, with bands like Polyptych giving me hope that there’s life for the scene outside of countless Necrophagist clones. Enter NYN, a wildly ambitious project spearheaded by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Noyan Tokgozoglu. For better or worse, I’ve never heard anything quite like their sophomore effort, Entropy: Of Chaos and Salt in a decade of following the scene.
If technical death metal can be described as “noodly,” then NYN is a veritable linguini factory, churning out mind–blowingly complex riffs, licks, and solos at a seemingly unsustainable rate. Yet sustain it does, at least for the majority of Entropy’s hour length, and the ceaseless flow of guitar wizardry combined with a throttle permanently fused to the Ludicrous Speed setting results in a package that is completely fucking bonkers. This formula is entertaining to be sure, but it outright excels when Noyan decides to tinker with elements from outside the tech death comfort zone. There is no better example of this buck wild, genre-busting philosophy than “The Apory of Existence,” which makes hard-left turns into neo-baroque organ swells, surf rock tremolo runs, and choppy, punk-meets-prog rhythms. Not every cut is as hilariously unpredictable, but each has its share of memorable moments, and unlike, say, Origin, NYN is never so singularly focused on the technicality that it forgets to drop an actual melody on occasion.
Entropy is an indisputable success in terms of musicianship, but its lack of songwriting nuance makes it a much harder sell than it ought to be. Tracks rocket from movement to movement, never looking back and never displaying any hint of structural coherence, an issue aggravated by the band’s propensity for overlong songs. NYN is typically so entertaining as to make this complaint a minor one when approached with the right mindset, but the songwriting issues are impossible for me to ignore in the last two tracks. At fourteen and nine minutes respectively, “Maelstrom” and “Taken Away by the Tides” are gargantuan tracks that, though not completely starved for memorable instances, don’t quite reflect the same level of sheer technical ingenuity that defines so much of Entropy. They’re the only tracks here that I don’t fully enjoy, which is a deceptively massive problem, as combined they take up more than a third of the record.
NYN’s sole songwriting success, “The Hallway,” is a good template for how the band could model their compositions for a follow-up release, running only three minutes and successfully harvesting not insignificant mileage by skillfully manipulating a condensed selection of licks. Regardless of any future choices made in regards to structural approach, Entropy‘s atrocious production must be addressed if the band ever hopes to receive a full recommendation from yours truly. The synthetic drum sound can be forgiven as the drums are completely programmed, but that in no way excuses the flaccid, shapeless guitar tone and utter lack of bass presence. All of these misguided decisions are congealed into a mechanical monstrosity by being compressed into oblivion, and as NYN densely layers their soundscapes in every track, an utterly artificial sounding product emerges that makes for a beyond dismal listening experience.
A “mixed” score at AMG is typically indicative of an album that barely manages adequacy; inoffensive and largely safe. Entropy: Of Chaos and Salt bucks this trend as a messy conglomeration of wildly entertaining highs and head-scratching, headache-inducing lows. It’s a blast and a marvel to listen to from an instrumental standpoint, but a dearth of songwriting chops and some of the most abysmal production I’ve heard this year drag it down to a point where I feel largely conflicted. If you enjoy tech death, I highly recommend giving Entropy at least one spin, as nothing else in the genre has ever left me so thoroughly bewildered.