Well, would you look at this? The world’s second favorite population of satanic Tasmanians have produced a work about which they feel strongly enough to imbue it with their own name. Why bands late in their career choose to do this, we may never know (looking your way, Cryptopsy), but while we can never fully understand their choices, we can always do to our idols what we as humans do best; talk about what’s wrong with them.
Except that poses a special challenge here because Psycroptic shows no pathologies whatsoever. The band isn’t out of ideas, aren’t strangers to experimentation, and still write some of the longest, most complex and most recognizable riffs on the planet. This album brings a little bit of everything, and despite the fact that Psycroptic can never be the group’s defining record (that would be Scepter of the Ancients, for the drongos out there), Psycroptic is written all over it.
With the exception of a few slouches, Psycroptic‘s songs are some of the band’s most consistent material to date. “Cold” opens with an infectious acoustic melody that hearkens back to the nylon-string madness featured on The Inherited Repression and only gets better from there. Joe Haley’s guitar work is as incredible as ever, and Psycroptic‘s leads are as complex, twisting and out-of the box as we’ve come to expect. The album’s second track “Ending” is one of the best examples of this, with a central riff that spins around and spits fire for sixteen bars or so and leads into one of the album’s catchiest choruses.
Jason Peppiatt sounds the same as ever, but his delivery is a bit more diverse than usual – “Setting the Skies Ablaze” features extremely abrasive thrash shouts rather than his usual growly-er delivery. It’s not one of the album’s better songs, but there’s enough meat around the gristle to tear into it anyway. On the other hand, “Sentence of Immortality” blows away the back half of the album with its Gojira-at-lightspeed mentality and whispered introductory verse. We’re probably never going to see Chalky-era vocal insanity out of these guys again, but over the last few albums Peppiatt has done a damn good job of giving the band that very specifically psychotic sound they need.
Not every song here is an incredible achievement; “Setting the Skies Ablaze” and “The World Discarded” aren’t the most interesting compositions on the planet, even given their extreme speed. The album is also just on par with the band’s previous output in terms of fidelity – pretty loud, but not offensive or abnormal. Joe Haley’s mix is also nothing new, putting the spotlight on the vocals and guitars, and passing over the bass almost entirely. It would be nice to know what Cameron Grant is up to, but Psycroptic have always been a very riff-focused band and the guitar work alone is interesting enough to make you forget that instruments with less than six strings exist, so I’ll once again give them a pass.
Anyone looking for 2015’s best tech-death album here is going to have to go fish, but Psycroptic is no slouch. It’s what we’ve come to expect from Australia’s foremost metal export (take note, fellow contributors, that’s “Psycroptic” and not “Ne Obliviscaris;” you know who you are) and has given me hope that 2015 won’t continue being a dried shitpile on the face of metal. It’s not quite as interesting as The Inherited Repression or as balls-out insane as Scepter of the Ancients, but it’s good to see these guys still kicking like a highly transmissible facial cancer. And that’s all I really need from them at this point.