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Within the torrential nightmare of trying to find intriguing slam death metal, one is bound to find a gem among the rough. Laparotomy, in my opinion, is one of those glimmering gems for a plethora of reasons. At a very shallow level, it’s novel to see a brutal death metal band incorporate synthesizers so heavily(!) into what would otherwise be a standard romp. At the subconscious, there’s my undying affinity for anything related to electronic metal. Then at the critical, after a few cycles of listening to the album, there’s a deeper understanding of how well the ideas of the album meld together into a boiling pot of unique music. There’s almost a level of majesty to what, at first glance, could be written off as a standard slam album with pretty artwork.
Speaking of writing off, one would quickly do so listening to the beginning of this album! It doesn’t open with any pizzaz or grand synth spectacle, just straight forward slamming brutal death metal with a clean modern production job. In fact, many passages of the album are performed entirely straight faced with no additional flare. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and in fact works towards the albums favor. For one, if you had no idea what the motive behind this band was or stumbled upon it by chance, you would undeniably be taken aback by the moody introduction of the electronic instrumentation. Second, the dichotomy between the vanilla slam and the synth enhanced death metal is effective in producing certain tones, musically and emotionally. Had it been synths everywhere and all the time, there wouldn’t be as much an impact compared to sections of the album that use them when needed. Third, while I don’t fit into this category, I’m sure some people are in it just for the death metal and couldn’t give two winks towards any “gimmick”. Of course, every song features said gimmick, infused in what I would deem a measured amount, satisfying the desire I have for weird and experimental metal experiences.
Without any ill will towards this album, at its very base the inclusion of synths and more non-traditional song arrangements (for slam anyways) is inherently gimmicky: it’s novel. Combining the shear brutality and innate ugliness of slamming brutal guttural death metal™ with the dream like, peacefulness inducing of synthwave would be viewed as a sort of musical juxtaposition, most likely humorously. However, this is a clever album created by a clever band, so that juxtaposition is somewhat mitigated using more post-metal/rock like writing and arrangements (the band cites progressive metal but sounds like post to my ears). The more easy-going genre fusion is certainly a positive, almost soothing in a way with the distorted guitars droning on like a lullaby to the tune of comforting electronics, weaving the way to a blissful headbanging slumber. There are also some moments where the death metal takes lead alongside the synths and sounds like… death metal with synths. These moments are still enjoyable and an entertaining change of pace, just a little less engaging.
At a deeper level, the album shows its glittering genius, inciting the vivid visions of a dreamy universe, willing to either cradle and comfort you or horrify and terrorize you, all at the errant twitch of the subconscious. ‘Ascendency Through Hypnagogic Thought Process’ is a concept album at heart, one in which the band hoped to create a genuine musical experience that paints the tangible adventure through dreams and unconscious thoughts induced during sleep. All 5 senses are invoked traveling the real landscapes of songs like ‘Aptitude for Vagary Exploration’ or ‘Rejoicing in the Vanquishment’, bringing to life the erratic nature of the unconscious human mind and whatever peace or unrest one might find therein. Not every moment is as palpable or intense as others, some downright cheesy (one song features a very clear sample of Alex Jones) attempts at invoking emotion are made. But through the strong will of the band members and the wildly creative ideas utilized, the album ascends itself to a level higher than any other standard brutal death metal band could hope to achieve. The gorgeous message conveyed by this music is backed with iron merit, and successfully roused emotions in myself whilst listening to it.
The worst aspect of this album is the amount of time it takes to truly sink in. At first all this album was to me was an experiment: musical baking soda and vinegar to marvel at for a bit. Then after a few more spins and a bit to think about, I really got a kick out of how thoughtful the album really was, and how subtle the combination of synth and slam was in this case. Add in a few musical modifications to the slam formula and bam, an elevated musical adventure is made. It’s not world shattering but by God it is worth my time to appreciate. A solid first album and glittering contender for top 10 of 2021. Here’s to more REM hallucinations of the future!
Release date: March 26th, 2021
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