The 2012 self titled debut from Dutch group Dodecahedron was one of my favourite albums in the avant-garde/dissonant extreme metal scene and one that struck more of a chord with me than their more popular contemporaries such as Ulcerate, Deathspell Omega and Portal. With the technical musicianship and avant-garde nature of the music they still remained a dark and evil sound that was firmly death metal at it’s core with memorable song-writing, both of which other bands in the same mould sometimes lack. So needless to say that their sophomore album Kwintessens released this month is one I got really excited about hearing when I saw it’s announcement. Following on in a similar direction with their technical death metal with hints of industrial to the sound they’ve released another enthralling album here that’s bound to be one of the albums of the year.
Though usually described otherwise, I feel their sound is more death than black metal, with some occasional elements of tremolo picking and the raspy quality to their growls bringing a black metal quality, but the brutality for most of the album makes it more death metal than black – either way though they’re one of the best technical extreme metal bands around at present. Prelude opens the album with a piece of noisy industrial with harsh vocals buried under layers of synth bursts and electronic percussion similar to some of Anaal Nathrakh’s more industrial moments in a short build to first track proper Tetrahedron – The Culling of the Unwanted from the Earth which wastes no time in unleashing a blindingly fast angularly dissonant riff over blastbeats with Michiel Eikenaar growling in blackened raspy style. As it changes tempo guitars combine with the bass into churning walls of sound with eerie synth lines creeping through and the vocals out on top to crush the ears of the listener. Though understated, throughout the album the synths and electronics do add an extra layer to the eerie atmosphere that’s prevalent throughout the album and provide an important element to their sound. Even in these wall of sound moments the riffs are technical and easily discernible, the production is great at providing both sonic assault and clarity. A sudden breakdown into more industrial clattering and dissonant synth oddities a minute from the end is rather jarring, feeling more of an introduction to a new track rather than a change in place in a current one, and it is one of the few moments across the album that feels out of place. Octahedron (Harbinger) is great at generating a creepy atmosphere with parts where the metal stops for dissonant acoustic chords to twang away against percussion and vocals before moving back into technical and dissonant riffs which twist the mind into non-euclidean absurdities. It’s one of the tracks that’s so mad it takes more than a few listens to stick in the head, but it’s all the more great for it. Closer Icosohedron (The Death of Your Body) is more slow and brooding at the beginning, focused on the vocals and esoteric lyrics against some twisted chords, before chants and sections of noisy industrial pervade the middles of the track. It’s one that never kicks off into blasting fast sections but relies on slow dissonant playing and tempo changes to keep it strange and interesting.
Interlude is a misleading title for a mid-album track, as although it’s instrumental it doesn’t interrupt the flow – it’s focus on urgent sounding fast percussion and rhythmic riffage against a sea of wonky but huge synth textures make for a great piece of industrial death metal. Finale is again a misleading title, coming before the aforementioned Icosohedron (The Death of Your Body) and this one consisting of just occasional rasped vocals and sampled industrial sounds in a piece of adequate if unspectacular dark ambient. The best track on the album though is the longest piece Hexahedron – Tilling the Human Soil, which has a huge technical but melodic riff running through it, with tremolo picking providing this degree of melody and lodging itself like an earworm in the brain once the album’s finished. There’s also more offbeat and dissonant sections, with breaks for slower industrial sections with pounding cymbals and repeated chugs while dissonant high pitched guitar sprawls its twisted way over the top, and wall of sound heaviness towards the end of the track, with some of the album’s most vicious vocals.
The only real shame is that at only forty one minutes the album feels a little short, but it does lend itself well to back-to-back listens. Overall though on Kwintessens, Dodecahedron have shown once again that they’re at the top of the pack when it comes to avant-garde and technical extreme metal. Metal album of the year contender.