When members of Necrophagist, Dark Fortress and Obscura get together to record an album you can have a reasonably clear idea of what to expect.
Heaviness, intricate song structures and sublime musicianship.
The real question is can they put something together which is engaging to listen to on a musical level and not just bank on the appeal of their unquestionable technical skills?
2015’s The Malkmuth Grimoire showed that, in the case of Grossman, Maier, Münzner, Tunker and Klausenitzer, Alkaloid had the songs to go with the chops.
Not content to retread former ground, their debut spiralled out in all directions ambitiously, occasionally suffering from trying to do too much within the seventy four minutes running time, but was an impressive release nonetheless.
Light and Shade
“Liquid Anatomy” opens gently with the clean guitars and harmonious singing of “Kernel Panic”, immediately establishing that, like their debut, this album will be a mix of light and shade.
A memorable vocal melody glides easily on top of bars of 7/8 time as the song switches between clean and heavy passages, culminating in a ferocious crescendo.
“As Decreed By Laws Unwritten” starts with a slime-laden groove which wouldn’t be out of place on Morbid Angel’s “Domination”.
It’s low and slow, evocative of the kind of riff-writing and spiteful vocal delivery their Floridian counterparts seem to have forgotten, without ever being directly derivative.
Of all the songs on the album, this one benefits most from not trying to be too clever. Sure, it’s technically impressive, but flows cohesively throughout its eight minute duration in absorbing fashion.
The same can’t be said for “Azagthoth” which sometimes feels like several distinct (albeit individually impressive) parts forced together awkwardly to create a piece of music.
The combination of clean and growled vocals also doesn’t quite click here which is a shame as the chorus is utterly vicious in delivery and worthy of a better song.
The title track dials down the intensity several notches.
Musically, it’s based largely on acoustic guitar and harmonised singing for its first half with occasional forays into heavier sections towards the end.
Lyrically, it’s a little clumsy and this is amplified by the relative simplicity of the music, leaving plenty of space for syllables to land gracelessly and jarringly.
“In Turmoil’s Swirling Reaches” initially continues the mid-album calm, building gradually into another pummelling climax with jaw-dropping lead guitar exchanges.
The album benefits from this use of space, tension and intensity. When it kicks in, it really kicks in and it’s superb.
Nowhere is this felt more than “Interstellar Boredom” which plods along unremarkably for almost three and a half minutes.
You suspect something big is coming and, when it does, it is more aggressive and extreme than you could ever expect.
Grossman really shines here, a flurry of violent blasts and hyper-accurate double-kicks.
All three guitarists are put to good use, too, in a combined attack which borders on disorientating, relenting briefly before one final barrage.
The aggression is maintained for the first couple of minutes of “Chaos Theory and Practice” until, fittingly, given the lyrical content, the handbrake is applied and the band veer sharply into a lighter off-beat section, complete with clean singing.
Like the title track, it’s a little awkward, in this case chirpily singing about using quantum singularity to escape the doomed Earth.
You have to admire their vigour in tackling big concepts, both musically and lyrically, even when sometimes it doesn’t quite hit the target.
As before, much of this song is a tour-de-force of technical Death Metal. When it clicks it’s truly remarkable. There are sublime individual sections even if, overall, it feels a little disjointed.
LaRoque N Roll
Concluding matters is the twenty minute “Rise of the Cephalopods”. Consisting of six sections drawing from Lovecraftian lore, it’s surprisingly accessible.
“I – Mantle Ghosts” has a wonderfully melodic chorus which melts into the tech-fest of “II – The Building Of R’lyeh”.
Keeping each section somewhat consistent within itself really works to maintain interest and prevents a song of this length becoming an incoherent mess. After the restrained third section, “IV – Metamorphogenesis” superbly incorporates themes established in the first section in an altogether heavier manner, capped by an exquisite solo by Tunker.
After a brief acoustic intro the intensity is ramped up again for the abrupt blast of “V – Octragon” which lasts less than two minutes. “VI – Star Spawn” completes the cycle in grand style, with Münzner contributing a solo Andy LaRocque would be proud to put his name to.
As songs of this length go, it’s very impressively put together and, yes, quite accessible.
Affording each section its own identity overcomes much of the jarring nature of when they try to accomplish the same feat in six minutes.
There is much for fans of their previous bands to salivate over in Liquid Anatomy. For those unfamiliar, this is a rewarding, if challenging, listen.
It’s nobly ambitious and sometimes tries a little too hard to cram a multitude of ideas into too small a sonic area.
When those ideas are given time and space to develop, however, as in “Rise of the Cephalopods” and “As Decreed By Laws Unwritten”, it is frequently glorious and stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the cream of the genre.
3.9 / 5 – Justin Maloney ::: 20/03/18