When you think of the technical side of death metal, just about the last thing you are likely to think of is hooks and driving melody. Here to try to change that thought is North Carolina-based duo THE ATROPHIC, whose main goal is to present their chosen genre of complex brutality through the lens of expert songwriting. It seems to be a herculean undertaking, but the pair are prepared to let their debut EP Coagulating Mirth do the talking for them.
Title track Coagulating Mirth opens with a suitably dramatic intro, with synthesised cello, timpani and choral voices combined to produce the soundtrack to some long-forgotten FromSoftware boss. This is swiftly replaced by swirling melodic riffing and barking vocals. It is immediately apparent that this is an attempt at taking the grating mesh of technical death metal and forming it into something more digestible, lashing it with melody and almost turning it into a light form of the genre. It is reminiscent of AT THE GATES, but an imaginary form of them that had formed in the early 2000s amongst the metalcore bands of that time and grasped at the hallmarks of that particular scene, rather than being spawned from the tail end of the Swedish OSDM comet.
Misery’s Grip is much more straightforward. Here we find a bludgeoning but supremely easy to follow segment of blastbeats and highly memorable riff work. It must be said that THE ATROPHIC are accomplishing what they set out to do. Tech death can often be an over-thought, coagulating pustule of murky, confusing riffs, needless time signatures and frustrating overcomplexity, whereas here we find something that breaks down the often confusing mire that metal of this ilk can often be, making it an actual treat to listen to. Following this comes Vessels For The Oligarchs, a showroom of outrageously catchy riffs and pummelling rhythm work, one which will likely make you think that it is rare to find a band who can do mid-paced chug quite as well as these newcomers.
Closer and proud owner of the best song title of the album, Horrid Mortal Tendrils opens with a clean break that pulls to mind something that AMENRA may well have done in the past, before exploding into a jarring passage of MG-42 drumming and solid, melancholic riffs. It’s arguably the strongest track on the EP and works tremendously as a mission statement, showcasing THE ATROPHIC on top form of their mission to present a melodic and memorable form of their genre, with songwriting at the very forefront. Tellingly, by the time the track (and therefore, the EP) comes to a close and locks in to its final, sombre piano outro, it has begun to feel almost familiar. The hooks have caught in your brain and it has the feeling of something which was not released this year, but an old friend you have been visiting for a long time. This is a rare feat to achieve, one which bodes extremely well for the band’s future.
Coagulating Mirth is out now via self-release.
Like THE ATROPHIC on Facebook.