If you’re inclined to throw your wallet around at this website’s command, prepare to empty it in March. There are about a half-dozen albums coming out that range from good to kickass — and that’s just the ones that old Kronos is reviewing. Close on the heels of Dodecahedron, are the young Bostonian upstarts in Replacire, a death metal band that you are about to closely follow. Do Not Deviate is their sophomore effort, and if they get better with age, their third album will be a force to be reckoned with. As it stands, Do Not Deviate is a cohesive, florid, and adventurous piece of music that’s as inventive as it is catchy, and as well-thought-out, as it is heavy. And it’s damn heavy.
Like a lot of modern tech/prog death metal bands, Replacire are clearly inspired by The Faceless1, and the tight, rapid-fire chuggy riffs that made the latter so successful are very important to these songs. Yet Replacire‘s influences are far broader than your average Unique Leader act, and Do Not Deviate seems to pull from Anata, Unexpect, and even a little bit of Demilich. Winding melodies, powerful clean vocals, and a spooky, gothic atmosphere not too far off from Revocation‘s Deathless share space with technical drumming and razor-sharp guitar performances here, and all are pulled together by a composition that uses repetition intelligently and has surprises waiting around every corner.
“Horsestance” forgoes an intro and jumps straight into beefed-up Unexpect riffing and catches you right off guard when Evan Berry breaks out his clean vocals and takes the track from interesting to great. “Act, Re-enact” keeps the momentum going with some Revocation-isms, but it’s the third track, “Built Upon the Grave of He Who Bends” where things really get cooking. It’s in many ways half Demilich; the title is obtuse but less than a paragraph long, and it lives off of complicated, groovy riffs and scintillating leads but throws in a few less complex sections to counterpoint their difficulty. It’s the first song off of Do Not Deviate that really gets lodged in your head, and it combines melody with technicality perfectly, clean vocals cruising over choppy syncopated rhythm. A little bit later on, “Cold Repeater” sets up its simple melody in the intro, but keeps you waiting for a few minutes to hear it again, only to axe the song in two and introduce a new but related melodic paradigm to pair with it in the song’s second half. It’s a great success in progressive songwriting. And speaking of prog, the mid-album piano interlude, “Reprise,” does exactly what it says on the tin, expanding upon the vocal melody from “Horsestance” for a little over a minute before the B-side kicks in. The re-use is clever, since the melody never got quite enough play in the original song and it really ties together the A-side of Do Not Deviate.
Replacire cover the more brutal side of their compositions with a dexterity close to that of Omnihility, but it’s in the progressive and melodic aspects of their songs that the band really succeed. The album’s title track strikes a good balance between brutality and technicality, at one point placing tapped leads right above drop-dead simple chugging and in between syncopated hits that are backed up with a hint of a piano. Immediately after, “Spider Song” cranks out another monstrously catchy groove and earworm vocal melody, ensuring that the album’s second half has plenty of its own pyrotechnics.
Do Not Deviate melds technicality with personality for an album that’s immediately recognizable and tough to fault. Its songs are concise and catchy while also brutal and twisted in their own right, and the band’s holistic approach to writing keeps them memorable without being predictable. “Built upon the Grave of He Who Bends” and “Spider Song” showcase a perfect mix of weirdness and musicianship that’s indicative of a band on their way to the top, and though I can’t say I got in on the ground floor — that would be 2012’s awesomely titled The Human Burden — I’ll run down those stairs as soon as the maelstrom of March super-releases is over. Buy this album, listen to it a lot, and plan for less vacancy on your year-end list.