I try to keep an open mind when it comes to music, seeking out new forms of our favorite genre in hopes of unearthing a new, unpolished gem that, with some sanding down, can shine radiantly
on the eyes in the ears of those who will listen. So when a promising new death metal band from a land not known for promising new death metal gets hyped up, I’m going to fixate my ears upon it and give it a listen. Hence, Ukraine’s Schizogen, after a massive shuffling from their debut album, 2016’s Parasitic Origin, where only vocalist Pablo remains, seem set to unleash a storm of “catchy brutal riffs, fierce drumming, and killer vocals”1 with its follow-up, Spawn of Almighty Essence.
To be fair, musically, nobody’s a slouch. Drummer Vadim’s rapid-fire blasts and frantic double-bass inject life into Spawn of Almighty Essence‘s slower, more plodding moments (which there are plenty). Elsewhere, Grinder’s got a knack for sick chord bends, and his pig-squeal pinch harmonics that would make Zakk Wylde green with envy are a-plenty to go around. The biggest, clearest standout, though, has got to be bassist Pavel’s performance, as he’s clearly studied Eric Langlois’ (Cryptopsy) spider-like scale runs and crystal-clear tonality, and his presence spruces the songs up a bit. All three musicians clearly have the chops to elevate themselves above their peers, and in due time, I can see all three turning heads in death metal.
But the songs need some massive help. I’ve spent a week listening to Spawn of Almighty Essence, and this sounds less like a band trying to craft brutal-yet-memorable songs with honest-to-goodness hooks, and more like a band checking off all the prerequisite boxes affiliated with modern-day tech-death and slam. Overabundance on pinch harmonics? Check. Indecipherable growls and pig-squealing bree-breeeeees? Check. Taking parts that don’t work and slowing them the fuck down over and over again, going slower each time, like on “Galaxies Systematic Infection” and “The Genes Recoding”? Check. Fake-out endings on just about every song on here (save for the last two)? Check. All this would be okay if there was something to latch onto that’s memorable, and that’s sorely lacking on here save for the riff found in the first verse of opener “Birth of the Great Mass,” and that’s only because it’s a direct lift of Metallica‘s “Enter Sandman.” I wish I was joking.
Even worse, the production is compressed within an inch of its life. How Pavel’s bass sounds clear amongst all the noise is a minor miracle, as the guitars and drums are mixed so loudly that any type of musical clarity is lost once the blasts and tremolo-picking start happening. But even with a better mix and production, Spawn of Almighty Essence suffers from a severe lack of hooks. Bands like Cryptopsy, and more recently Gomorrah, blend angular riffing, fluid basslines, and jaw-dropping feats of percussive ingenuity with the occasional melodic hook, or a moment of breathing space that builds tension, giving the return to blasting fury an even bigger, more potent punch when that moment finally arrives. Those moments don’t exist on Spawn, making 5-6 minute songs feel like an eternity. In fact, so deficient are the hooks that I’m having a hard time recalling what I’ve listened to as I’m listening to it. That’s not good.
If I’m coming down hard on Spawn, it’s because the three musicians involved clearly have the chops to write music that can truly cast an eye on Schizogen, and I have a feeling they’ll do so in time. But I can’t recommend Spawn of Almighty Essence to anybody other than genre purists, and even then they’ve heard everything on here before, and done better. I’m hoping the next go-’round will produce better results. As it stands, Spawn of Almighty Essence comes and goes without leaving an impression.