Well fuck me senseless, that was unexpected. Sensed was sold to me as a death metal record with post-metal sensibilities. As such I was expecting, I dunno, like a slightly riffier/more angular Ocean or something. I was absolutely here for that, but (and it’s a big but) that is nothing like what I got. Whilst the album certainly could be categorised as a death metal album, what we actually have is a stupendously technical prog/math metal record.
Out of the gates we are treated to unrelenting Meshuggah-esque rhythmic choices, and yes that does mean that there is clearly a djentness to proceedings, but the unrelenting nastiness of the record keeps it a distance from the likes of Periphery. Vocally there is no melodious clean, instead we are treated to a slimier-than-thou blackened death growl which is more akin to something like last year’s excellent Outer World Graves by Devoid of Thought. In fact the entire production of the album is brutal, and disquieting, and creates a sonic onslaught akin to many of the rather excellent death metal bands playing to the cosmic other, or the pestilent earth. For the case of the latter, there are a few phlegmatic outbursts here and there (the back end of ‘Becoming’ certainly seems mired in filth).
Early in the record electronics and glitches which wouldn’t be out of place on a Liturgy record are present here and there, alongside a barrage of tremolo/industrialised picking and I find myself reminded of the underrated Daath at points. At points there’s a thrashiness to the riffing, that unhinged unbridled joy in a heads-down rip through a guitar. As the album moves forward we see Opeth style rhythms merging with SYL-style chaos erupts, as a gentle undertow of chanting and meditative vocalisations thickens the sound or provide gentle segues between tracks. Skronk begins to come more to the fore as we move forward, reminiscent of the classic w^w^^w^w by Car Bomb, or something off of their recent acolytes, Frontierer. At points there’s a technical flourish which feels like it wouldn’t be out of place on a record by Haarp Machine. Then, every so often, you suddenly feel like Primitive Man have come to say hello, the earthshaking opening and down-right knuckle dragging neolithic presence of the riffing starting ‘Bowels’ as an excellent case in point.
All of these influences together may sound like there’s an incoherent record at hand but, and this is where there is some serious masterwork at play, everything just seems to fit beautifully. At no point does anything feel out of place, quite the opposite in fact. The sonic choices of this album are inspired and just seem to hit the right feeling every single time there is a slight pivot or shift musically.
Lyrically, I’ve got no idea what’s going on – we are assured, however, that the album is a jaunt through “the evolution of the universe from the point of view of a Being of Light” and, honestly, I’m an absolute sucker for a concept album, particularly one with such an expansive focus.
This, to me, is an early contender for album of the year; it’s exciting, interesting and, importantly, plasters a huge smile all over the face as it plays out. So what’s my takeaway? It’s hard to sum up concisely but if you like the idea of Catch 33 filtered through the lens of a modern cosmic death metal band who happen to enjoy skronky mathmetal and heavier than the cosmos riffing, then this album deserves your attention.
Sensed is out March 30th via Bandcamp and can be ordered here.
Words: Simon Young