Review: Psycroptic Always Keeps ‘Em Guessing on Self-Titled Album
The Tasmanian devils are at it again!
Building on an impressive fifteen-year career, Psycroptic brings the proverbial progressive pain on its diverse, expansive Prosthetic Records self-titled debut — and oooh baby does it hurt so good. This is most definitely a tweedly-tweedly-doo band, so if outlandish musical feats and technical theatrics aren’t your thing, maybe you’d best step aside and wait for the next train to Simpletown.
From the beginning of this album, it is apparent that we are not in for typical progressive death metal by any means. The first song “Echos to Come” mysteriously starts with some ambient buzzy whirring complemented by a dramatically single-strummed acoustic guitar and synchronized random tom hits. Soon in, a bit of delayed, Pink Floyd-esque riffing is added, followed by a hooky acoustic riff that frankly wouldn’t seem out of place on a Dave Matthews Band song. That is, until the heaviness drops.
After teasing a couple quick thunderous breaks, the song really kicks in with a pummeling introductory sequence of furious drumming and low-end riffage which only explodes further when the uptempo verse hits the scene with the welcomed high-energy screaming.
And this seems to be Psycroptic’s M.O., in a way: always keep ’em guessing. There are a nice handful of unpredictable moments on this offering — for example, a delicately extended pause that seems to invite a deep breakdown, but instead the band chooses another uptempo, rapid-riffing adventure.
Every song here displays a similar quality of this unexpected, which-way-will-they-go vibe, all the while blowing your mind with a substantial amount of dazzing musicianship and some memorable hooky riffs to boot. One of these moments is in the chorus of the second song titled “Ending” — one can hear a bit of Death’s influence in some of the riffs here and in subsequent track “A Soul Once Lost”, although it’s complemented and contrasted by a much more aggressive technical attack.
Drummer Dave Halsey flurries tom rolls and double kick runs with a maniacal fury that also shows all the right restraint in between dropping your jaw left and right. Similarly, the guitar work (courtesy of drummer Dave’s brother Joe) is fast and impressive without being too gaudy overall. There are plenty of nerdy licks some of you may roll your eyes at, but in the context of the band’s vibe they totally work and dance perfectly with the ripping percussion.
And I love the aforementioned occasional use of acoustic guitars, feels a bit unexpected but right at home. The intro of power hitter “Cold” is another laid-back DMB-style acoustic groove (complete with heady knee-slapping!), but this time a bit extended and with a tasty darker guitarmony to boot. When the songs goes heavy, the riff continues and we can see just how much of a metal hook it really is.
This is one of the simplest and yet most satisfying songs on the album, not without its speed-picking moments but more so than the other tracks everything feels totally rooted in the song first and foremost (as opposed to just blowing our minds with technical madness).
Not that the tech-y theatrics aren’t welcome — Psycroptic are extremely proficient at what they do no matter what, but when the riffs are serving to elevate one of the better-crafted/well-defined songs, there is no stopping this band. Regardless, nonstop ass is being kicked all over the place on this album, and it’d be difficult for those with any level of interest in this genre to be disappointed by its sheer strength.