Written by: AB on 03/02/2009 00:50:06

Much like my fellow scribe EW felt about reviewing the latest output from German thrashers Kreator, so do I believe that reviewing Psycroptic's 2008 album "Ob(Servant)" is a mixed blessing too. My feelings towards these Tasmanian Devils are quite ambiguous; their latest album before "Ob(Servant)", titled "Symbols of Failure" sadly more than lived up to its name, on the other hand, their 2003's "Scepter of the Ancients" is a personal favourite of mine, and sits firmly in my top 5 death metal album list. The big change between "Scepter..." and "Symbols..." was the departure of vocalist Chalky who got replaced with Jason Peppiatt. This also heralded a more general change in musical style; where "Scepter..." was schizofrenic, sometimes groovy, all the time crazy, organic, weird, surprising, hook-filled, constantly changing, indeed; progressive, "Symbols..." suffered from the lack of all this and is 'just' a technical death metal album where the technicality was put in focus together with speed at the expense of everything interesting with Psycroptic, resulting in an overall bland affair. The guitar lost all its playfulness, the drums were just blasting now, and, the biggest change of all, where Chalky had been screaming, growling, singing, gurgling, whispering, puking, roaring, talking, burping; in short delivered some of the most awesome, schizophrenic vocal work off all death metal time, Peppiatt was 'merely' roaring/yelling. So. It'll be interesting to ob(serve) (heh) where Psycroptic stands anno 2008 - they are obviously very talented musicians, but are their inspiration/imagination up and running again?

Let's start out by stating that this is not a new "Scepter of the Ancients". Far from it. However, Psycroptic has obviously realised that the lifeless, hookless tech-death of "Symbols of Failure" is not the way to go. The drums are still blasting straight ahead most of the time, but Joe Haley on axe does a much more inspired job now than on "Symbols...", laying down infective technical riffing that should ensure some headbanging down under. Time and signature changes are also present a plenty. Even though the sound is the same throughout the album, differences are easily found, from the chugging, slow, heavy "Horde In Devolution" to the frenzied speed of the title track or "Slaves of Nil", to the grand album closer, the 8 min "Initiate". The really new thing is the inclusion of breakdowns every once in a while. Not stupid Bring Me The Horizon breakdowns, but small groovy deathcore inspired pieces.

So what is the main problemo then? Well, again, I'm sad to say, the shame must go to vocalist Peppiatt. Like the redhaired stepchild (with glasses) at a family party, he seems so out of place. Psycroptic plays death metal. That means growling (yes, I know you're allowed to do whatever you want, but bear with me). Not yelling. Sometimes it works fine, when he puts a little spite into it - listen to the first lines in the title track, for example. Most of the time it doesn't work fine. He is yelling. The good part is that he is varying his vocal work, and when it does work, it fits the music strangely well.

So even though Psycroptic don't manage a new "Scepter..." or even a new "Isle of Disenchantment" (their excellent debut), they somehow redeem themselves with "Ob(Servant)". If this had been an instrumental album it would have been impressive and awesome, as it is now, it's rather impressive and good, not awesome - the crummy vocal work simply takes too much focus. This is still well executed deathcore influenced extremely technical death metal, but yelling won't cut it.


Download: Ob(Servant), Horde In Devolution, Slaves of Nil
For the fans of: The Faceless, Despised Icon
Listen: MySpace

Release date 26.09.2008
Nuclear Blast

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