Tech death needs a solid facelift. I feel like I’ve been hearing the same pedal point riffs and orchestra samples for a decade. Obviously, there are big names in technical death metal that have gained popularity in the past few years, but will they really hold up to time? My opinion is that these bands will need to update their sound to stay popular.
Now I may just live in an echo chamber, but the two biggest names in tech death according to the internet are Archspire and Inferi. Maybe that’s untrue on a worldwide level, but we’ll use these two for examples in this article. And let me preface this entire post by saying: I am a fan of both of these bands.
Both are bands lauded for their musicianship, both have toured internationally, both are generally praised for pushing boundaries. But have they really done anything unique? Have they really raised the bar to a new level?
Archspire is a Canadian tech death band known for playing really fast. Their vocalist Oli Peters has said before that his biggest inspirations are rappers like Tech N9ne and Busta Rhymes. For the uninitiated basement-dwelling metalheads out there, those two rappers are known for their speed and delivery prowess. So taking that into account, it’s obvious that Archspire is a band built around speed. Sadly, it seems that this band only counts their music in double time. Their song ‘Involuntary Doppelganger’ has the feel of being 350 bpm (beats per minute), but can more comfortably be counted at 175 bpm. This isn’t much faster than your average danceable EDM song. Either I’m bad at counting, or some tech death fans are easily misled by gimmicks.
Inferi is a tech death band hailing from Nashville, Tennessee. These guys have been consistently releasing music for the past decade, give or take a couple years. Known as much for their virtuoso musicians as they are for their thematic writing, Inferi is very often the most suggested band to newcomers of the sub-genre. The issue is: where to start with their discography? Maybe it should be with the classic ‘The Path of Apotheosis’, with all of its shredding and pedal point riffing. Or maybe it should be with their newest album, ‘Vile Genesis,’ an album praised for its shredding and…pedal point riffing.
I’m aware that fans can never be consistent in what they want from bands. If a band sticks to their guns, they’re called “stale” or “boring”. If they take risks and try new things, fans will call them all sorts of names and even claim that they aren’t metal (e.g. BTBAM, Rivers of Nihil, Whitechapel). There has to be a certain point where bands get tired of the same sound though. After so many albums of DAW interludes, TBDM-inspired riffs, and the same 3 vocal tones, one would expect tech death to see an update.
None of this is to say that there aren’t tech bands giving new life to the sub-genre. There are classic bands like Gorguts, who have been setting the pace for bands in the tech scene to use dissonance and enigmatic song structuring for decades. Newer bands like Wormhole have been ripping through sub-genre boundaries with their take on tech-slam. Even Revocation, known for dabbling in their own brand of death thrash, have wizened up and added new elements to their sound on each record.
Technical death metal does not have to be held back. It doesn’t have to sound so homogenized. Shredding scales and sweep picking as fast as possible is great, and it’s fantastic practice, but it doesn’t have to be the end-all of tech death. We can branch out and try new sounds, maybe even some that are not in harmonic minor. We can bring influences from other genres, even other parts of life. Not everything needs to be Magic The Gathering and Warhammer (even though 40K is pretty sick). Tech death needs to freshen up.
Call me a boomer, call me uninformed, tell me I’m just bitching to hear my own voice. I’ve been watching the iceberg-like progression of technical death metal for over a decade, and I’m still waiting for a band to really shake things up. Necrophagist may have been an amazing band, but we need to bring more influences into tech death to keep it alive. My hope for the future of tech death? The addition of dissonant influences will bring us to a new level of tech, and possibly push it past the same standards we’ve heard for a decade. As Kevin of Chicago disso-death band Misanthropy says, we can call it ‘post-tech’ when we’ve achieved that real progression of the sub-genre.
Anyway, this is all just my opinion. If you have any ideas of why I’m a stupid fucking idiot and completely wrong, let me know!