Welcome to the latest edition of “Freeloader,” in which we review albums that you don’t have to feel like a douche for downloading for free. Today Satan Rosenbloom checks out Bedlam of Cacophony’s Neuroleptic.

Metal is essentially a modernist musical style. Since its very beginnings, metal has expanded what we think of as music by deconstructing – or outright doing away with – the schema we use to evaluate it. Metal bands constantly rub up against the limits of volume, speed, melody (or lack thereof) and other variables that all music engages in some way or another.

Even within a genre known for its pursuit of extremity, Neuroleptic, the debut album by Orange County’s Bedlam of Cacophony, stands out by hyper-extending pretty much every convention there is. Speeds alternate between grindcore fast and doom slow without notice. Riffs change quicker than your ears can process them, when they occur at all (much of the guitar playing is of the tap-heavy Psyopus variety). Sizzling distortion abuts clean fusion guitar tones. You’d be hard pressed to find two adjacent measures in the same time signature. Drummer Nate Cotton sounds like his kit is constantly exploding; three guest vocalists, including Cattle Decapitation/Murder Construct’s Travis Ryan, saddle the album with an intense case of multiple personality disorder. Hooks? Grooves? Tonal centers? All done away with. Neuroleptic blows by like four colliding tornados and dares you to keep up.

As a result, the album is more about a musical approach than providing a listening experience. Neuroleptic works better as a series of spazz-grind etudes than something with emotional resonance. And for that reason – despite the surprisingly vibrant recording/mastering job by Samur Khouja and Scott Hull, respectively – it feels a little empty. Extremity for its own sake can be thrilling, as musicians bristle up against the limits of their own capabilities. But it doesn’t stick unless it can unleash new modes of expression. And with few exceptions, like the monstrous second half of “Juggernaut” and the brooding “Endsville,” Bedlam of Cacophony have trouble connecting.

Does Neuroleptic represent an endpoint, where every musical feat has been achieved, every border has been transgressed? Is there nowhere left to go? Do we have to get used to speaking Bedlam of Cacophony’s language, and hope that those outer limits of speed and disjointedness become the new set points, before we can adequately evaluate them? Methinks not. There are plenty of bands that have channeled such far-out extremes into cathartic music. The classic example is Dillinger Escape Plan’s Calculating Infinity (a template for Neuroleptic “Psychic Driving”), wherein ludicrous extremes are channeled into shockingly powerful music. And you don’t even have to go that far back. A few months ago we reviewed an EP by Quarter the Villain, who do a very similar thing, but sound more visceral.

Bedlam of Cacophony have the open-mindedness to do something truly out-of-the-box, and the technical skills to execute it. They just need to shift their sights away from the horizons of extremity to find out what that is.

(2.5 horns out of 5)


Download Bedlam of Cacophony’s Neuroleptic here.

Find out more about the band here.

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