Nucleus - Sentient
Unspeakable Axe Records
Progressive/Technical Death Metal
9 songs (37' 55")
Release year: 2016
Reviewed by Andy

For those who intensely regret that Timeghoul never made a full LP, Chicago tech-death newcomers Nucleus have an offering that will probably bring some consolation: Their debut album Sentient, a concoction influenced by the prog-death pioneers of twenty years ago. Though they seem to be still warming to their subject, the debut shows quite a bit of promise.

Rather than being a full-on exercise in brutality, the sound is restrained, focusing more on riffing cleverness driven into the ears with a coldly robotic atmosphere to match the sci-fi themes of the music. The guitar work is clever, with a jagged tone that bounds around the echoing tracks in crazy, atonal scales. But the sound nonetheless strikes a balance -- the band never gets carried away with its own artistry here, but is perfectly happy to rain time signature changes and unconventional notes on the listener. Songs like Cantos and Swarm take the weirdly-angled riffing (think Demilich or, to a lesser extent, Atheist) to an extreme, still managing to get back to blocky chords punctuated by squealing harmonics in time not to lose their audience. If there's a weakness to this approach, it's that the production often makes some of this run together; the vocals, a reasonably decent set of croaked growls with a bit of reverb, don't help, as they blend easily into the sound of the rest of the band.

Even with some of the weakness in the mix, when the band does decide to go full throttle and bear down heavily on the listener, they can do it. Ancient, a track on the album I particularly liked, keeps the odd scales on the main riffs and some crazy soloing, but goes for a blastbeat-supported frontal assault on the rest of the song. The best and most atmospheric track, Starflyer, is saved for last. Nucleus simply piles it on here, as the riffs slow and become more crushing with each beat until finally speeding back up like an alien spaceship taking a plunge through a gas giant's gravity well.

This is a much more accessible progressive death album than I've been hearing these days, but I like it. If Starflyer is any indication, Nucleus potentially has some great days ahead.

Bandcamp: https://nucleus.bandcamp.com/album/sentient.

Killing Songs :
Ancient, Starflyer
Andy quoted 78 / 100
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