The Design Abstract – Metemtechnosis Review

Science fiction in heavy metal has absolutely no business being as cool as it somehow is. What is it about thick, heavy synths and thicker, heavier guitars that feels like such a strong match? I don’t really like science fiction in general, but as a musical concept? It works. I don’t know what to tell you, it just does. The Design Abstract hail from the Canadian province of Ontario, and seem to understand the game, as Metemtechnosis is their third full-length release under this moniker—and their second this year. The group plays melodic death metal to tell their futuristic stories, drawing inspiration from the likes of Scar Symmetry, Fleshgod Apocalypse, and Soilwork, working here to tell one unified story over nine tracks. It’s a pretty cool idea. How well does it hold up in practice?

With seven-minute opener “Digital Dawn,” The Design Abstract tells your everything you need to know about Metemtechnosis: it’s fast, heavy, super symphonic, and draws in a lot of ideas as it progresses. Most of the melodies are maintained by heavy synths, with lead guitars adding an edge here and there. Verses are dominated by Voiicide’s thunderous growls, while choruses often take a slicker, catchier route in the form of his cleans. “Digital Dawn” is almost progressive in how many twists and turns it embarks on between stanzas, allowing the keys (uncredited) and guitars (Logan Mayhem) to really shine. Behind the kit, Matt Ngo ties everything together with lush, controlled drumming. Together, The Design Abstract lay out an effective template for solid, catchy melodeath in the vein of their aforementioned influences.

I imagine what will make or break Memtechnosis for most will be the fact that it absolutely feels like a sci-fi concept album. While “Born of Machines” opens with a super catchy riff, and is a generally guitar-led song, the synths do not stop for anything. Whether in standard synth solos, chiptune-esque fills, or programmed orchestrations, they are omnipresent on this album. Further, Voiicide’s clean singing is often laden with effects to give a futuristic impression. “Aberration Omega” utilizes those cleans to the greatest effect, dialing back on the synths a little to further the album story in an expansive, approachable way. Occasionally the effects feel like they’re a bit much, but they undeniably contribute to the all-important atmosphere that The Design Element thrive in. And when it works, it really works. “Sentinels” is a great example of solid melodeath with heavy symphonic elements that work to support and enhance an already strong performance. The Design Element know what they’re doing here, and anyone who appreciates these futuristic atmospheres is likely to enjoy Memtechnosis.

Generally, Memtechnosis is a creative, consistent album, but it loses me a little partway through as a result of the album’s over-reliance on the aforementioned atmosphere. The Design Abstract are certainly agile in their songwriting, but perhaps a little too pressed to constantly be doing something exciting and on-theme. Songs like “Organic Data Fusion” lend a sense of ear fatigue as, four songs into the whole, it feels like the album’s story, progressive lead and synth lines, blast beats, and thick production are already enough to have served for a complete release. It doesn’t help that the album sounds fairly compressed, with the drums, in particular, filling an awkward space, feeling both too loud and not impactful enough. Meanwhile, the bass is difficult to discern at all, forced to make way for the rest of the band’s activity. At forty-six minutes, Memtechnosis feels longer than it is, with enough ideas to fill several more songs than the nine in the package. The ideas are good, mind, but I wish the band had spent a little more time editing and opted for a production that allows for a bit more breathing room. As is, the album feels restricted.

With solid ideas, a ton of creativity, and an energetic execution, Memtechnosis feels like a strong thesis statement for The Design Abstract moving forward. I have a lot of love for concept albums, and this one hit the spot nicely. This is very much an album of its influences—nothing stands out as especially “new,” but instead offers a solid take on an enjoyable, established concept. Hopefully we’ll be hearing more from these Canadians in the not-too-distant future because Memtechnosis is a really promising release from a band who could not more clearly have plenty of potential.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Abstrakted Records
Releases Worldwide: October 29th, 2021

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