Thætas – Shrines to Absurdity [Things You Might Have Missed 2020]

The more complex a city grid becomes, the more stressful it is to navigate.1 Take downtown Asheville, for instance. Designed for a different time, where both cars and people were slower and fewer, the sprawling grid filled with odd splits, intersections, and inconsistent widths often poses a daunting interruption to an otherwise straightforward thoroughfare, and that’s2 before factoring in the insane driving habits of the locals. The same rule applies to my enjoyment of technical brutal death metal. For example, every fiber of my being tells me I should swoon over the latest Defeated Sanity, but the particular structures housed within turned me off and I still don’t feel any urge to return.3 That’s4 where New York, New York brutal tech-death outfit Thætas enter the equation.

Like an evil twin of Afterbirth‘s Four Dimensional FleshThætas‘ debut full-length Shrines to Absurdity feels like a different animal than the usual brand of brutal tech. Instead of Afterbirth‘s counterintuitive use of airy atmospherics and deceptively uplifting songwriting, Thætas invoke crushing despair and unnerving dissonance. However, the standout characteristic of the band’s application, funnily enough, is its immediate memorability. Despite the preponderance of off-kilter, jazz-tinged thrashing and discordant note progressions, the riffs that compose the album’s backbone are infectious. Thanks to a spectacular mix, additional details surface to play a supporting role in drilling those already memorable chords further into the mind.

No song on Shrines to Absurdity more perfectly encapsulates the striking balance Thætas achieved than lead single “Dearth.” It’s damn near impossible to hum it correctly on your daily walk, but it’s just as impossible to resist the attempt. Every riff, every exchange, as the tune morphs from one idea to the next, burrows into the cranium like a botfly5 from hell. “Shrines to Absurdity” and “Thith” accomplish similar feats, albeit with more focus on speed and aggression. Every tune from track two through track eight barrels full force into my face with massive slams, smartly organized pinch harmonics and sinewy drum patterns, constituting one unstoppable run of triple A grade brutal death numbers.

That magnificent run ends at closer “Greenhaven.” I hate to say it, but what little bloat Shrines to Absurdity harbors manifests on this one cut, which is thematically relevant but extends beyond its welcome. One of the cooler riffs on the album gets a nice spotlight before the foggy middle section slowly comes into view, but from that point muted slams and jazz soloing jam out beneath a veil of industrial noise and nature sounds. It’s an interesting bit of musical composition, but it would have been more compelling if it was cut in half and faded into silence. Considering the album is only thirty minutes long, this atmospheric track makes a big impact on the record, and it’s not always for the best. However, enough strong material exists inside that I think another pass in the editing room would be enough to make it work.

So it’s not a perfect debut, but that’s6 perfectly okay with me. Records like Shrines to Absurdity come few and far between, and despite the insane amount of quality death metal records released this year, this one stands out. By balancing technicality with brutality and adding a subtle twist of jazz mentality, Thætas managed to make something simultaneously complex and memorable. I’m not about to ask for more than that!

Tracks to Check Out: “Blood Distillery,” “Dearth,” “Shrines to Absurdity,” and “Envy the Stillborn”

Show 6 footnotes

  1. Thætas so true. – Holdeneye
  2. Or “Thætas.” – Holdeneye
  3. Thætas okay, Kenny. – Holdeneye
  4. Thætas.” – Holdeneye
  5. Thætas not an animal that I needed to know existed. – Holdeneye
  6. Yet another missed opportunity. – Holdeneye
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