Tasmania is known for two things; the Tasmanian Devil and having produced one of the leaders of the modern death metal scene, Psycroptic. Since their formation in 1999, the band have constantly evolved and broken through the boundaries that the genre can sometimes impose upon itself. With the release of their seventh studio album, As The Kingdom Drowns, an album of riff-filled, technical ecstasy, Psycroptic just may have outdone the devil.
Formed by brothers Dave and Joe Haley, Psycroptic have always lived in that very small space between technical and metal. The over the top insanity peaked with their sophomore album, 2006’s Symbols of Failure. From there the band looked to smooth things out a bit, whether it was with some ambience or industrial elements in 2008’s Ob(Servant) or focusing in on the groove on 2012’s, The Inherited Repression. 2015’s Psycroptic seemed to encompass all that the band had done, so where does one go from there? For the band, it was somewhat easy.
The self-titled album gave the band a new and solid platform to launch off of, making experimentation easier. The hard part was where to go and just how far to take it. Singer, Jason Peppiatt comments, “As always with this band we wanted it to have the distinctive sound of a Psycroptic album but wanted to push ourselves further with adding new elements and having a darker vibe than on previous releases. I think we achieved our goal and this is something we are all very proud of!”
D. Haley adds, “It’s always a challenge to continue to evolve as a band, while staying true to the path you've chosen to walk on. With As The Kingdom Drowns we all pushed each other outside of our usual comfort zones, and didn't settle for the easy way out. I’m super proud of everyone’s hard work and dedication to the project; it turned out to be one hell of a catchy riff filled album.”
Riffing is the key standout on the new album. The band chose to lean more towards the metal than the technical and branch out from there. The lead off track, We Were The Keepers has an almost symphonic feel to it. A huge, layered chorus makes this one of the most memorial death metal song heard in quite some time, though that machine gun riff that destroys the bridge certainly helps the cause. The album’s next track, Frozen Gaze, can be described as an exercise on how to fill as many hooks into a 4 minute track and make it as seamless as possible. Directivecomes next, slowing it down quite a bit, packing a huge punch, but still showcases J. Haley’s fingers all over the fretboard. The first three tracks set the mood for the rest of the album, with each subsequent song encompassing some of their elements, though at no point seeming rehashed. The standout on the later part of the album is Upon The Stones, which starts off with a dark, doomy riff laid upon thunderous drums that wouldn’t sound far removed from a Triptykon album. J. Haley soon scales his way all over the guitar and brother Dave closes it out with an atmospheric drum off before Jason Peppiatt’s back howling at the moon, giving it that Psycroptic touch.
As Psycroptic approaches their 20 year anniversary, it’s nice to see them sounding as fresh as ever. With age comes wisdom and maturity. All the band’s previous work got them to where they are at today. Comfortable in their own shoes, nothing to prove, being able to look back at their earlier years with pride and seeing a long road ahead that they know they are ready to tackle.
- Dave Haley - drums
- Joe Haley - guitar
- Jason Peppiatt - vocals
- Todd Stern - bass guitar