(DGR reviews the 2013 album by Tyrant of Death.)
Tyrant of Death is easily one of the most prolific guitar projects out there. At one point it seemed like every Wednesday we were posting something from it, and at one point the ToD project managed to crank out three albums in one year. The artist behind the project, multi-instrumentalist Alex Rise, has toned it down since then, but we still have managed to see at least one Tyrant Of Death project a year. Because of this, I have spent an inordinate amount of time with this project as well, having come across it around the time he released the Blood Lust disc.
It’s been an experience, as each release has improved upon the last, and it’s seemed like we all learned as he did. Compositions got more complex, guitars got more violent, and the drumming remained as insane as ever without moving into the realm of seeming inhuman. I have found that across the Tyrant of Death catalog there are some very distinct moods, and they tend to create a pretty solid venn diagram of where future releases may land.
There’s the sort of loud, crushing, machine-like death metal insanity of discs like Dark Space and Macrocosmic Lunacy, albums that can at times sound like instrumental or heavily industrialized Anaal Nathrakh, and then there’s the moody, almost dirge-speed and heavily electronics-filled discs like General Bliss and Connect. A few discs have sat in between those, but overall this project tends to shift between one of those two, so you likely will know within the first song or two what sort of experience you’re going to be in for. Both approaches have worked incredibly well, alongside a very loud wall-of-sound production style that tends to scratch the itch for the part of me that worships at the altar of Strapping Young Lad’s Alien.
2013’s Tyrant Of Death release is the album known as Nuclear Nanosecond, a disc that took some time to craft from the point of its announcement to the release. We’re down to one Tyrant Of Death disc a year. Does that mean that we’re now focused on a quality-instead-of-quantity approach? Is there anything different on this disc vs previous albums? Where does an album like Nuclear Nanosecond fall on the ToD Venn diagram? Does it line up with some of the earlier experiments he had posted in between previous release Cyanide and this?
Nuclear Nanosecond tries its damnedest to interbreed the two differing Tyrant Of Death machines into one hybrid. He’s tried before with Alice’s Heroin Wonderland, and that album has come to define the latter ToD discs somewhat. The new one is probably the best fusion of overbearing electronics and insane drumming buried under layers of guitar to date. This means that there is a best-of-both-worlds approach across much of Nuclear Nanosecond. Now, with both Reconnect and Cyanide as previous examples, it may come to define how Tyrant Of Death will sound in the future – so that now there’s a consistent approach to things as opposed to the previous bouncing back and forth.
Because Tyrant Of Death is a solo guitar project, a lot of work goes into each track to make sure it has been differentiated from the songs before it. Even without vocals, there is still a ton of material that has to be given a thorough look-over to make sure there’s no repetition. Because of that, Alex has to work doubly hard to make sure each song stands out, especially for those of us plebians who don’t play guitar and have no idea what he’s doing on each track, outside of the very basic motifs that may define a song.
The occasional standby will still make an appearance, such as each song’s melody being performed on an angular, somewhat out-of-tune, echoed guitar over crunch-filled riffs, and yes, there are plenty of just crushing sections where all the music seems drained out in favor of a big explosion of power chord. Yes, there are plenty of voice samples pulled from sci-fi films throughout the spectrum as well.
One of my favorite songs by Tyrant Of Death previously was one named “Sanctuary”. I loved it because it was super-abrasive, didn’t start as heavy guitars from the get-go, and just built into a multifaceted monster of a song. The exciting part about Nuclear Nanosecond is that quite a few songs recall the way that one moved, as well as how many songs have their own individual identity this time.
“Stellar Vengeance”, for instance, has quite a few headbanging riffs buried within its vault of sound; one that hits right in the opening seems especially built to cause instantaneous headbanging. “Blair’s Sawfin” includes a massive, typewriter of a riff that seems constructed from Morse Code in the opening as well, and that one makes the whole song feel like a march. In between those and throughout the disc are slower-moving, static-filled, electronic heavy and guitar-light songs, and those are fun as well – if just for the amount of distortion thrown at you.
Nuclear Nanosecond continues the recent trend of Tyrant Of Death charging for discs, though it seems like most of the money is being whipped around toward creating physical copies and merch for this release. The artwork that has emerged from this project has also been awesome – I have yet to be disappointed by the heavily cyber-themed creations, usually gore-heavy and sometimes creating cyborg abominations.
As for whether the purchase is worthy, it’s an interesting discussion, because like much of Tyrant of Death’s music, the songs seem to be defined by sweeping moods with the occasional sparks of individuality. There are more moments where songs stand out on Nuclear Nanosecond, and that’s pretty goddamn great. For people who are new to this massive, sprawling, industrialized project there’s a bunch to offer. Longtime fans will feel instantly at home, though sometimes that feeling of comfort can be a double-edged sword; you may have to work a little harder to find those moments of pure excitement. The songs move at two speeds, incredibly fast or really meditative and electronic, but Nuclear Nanosecond is still an adrenaline rush. The apocalyptic narrative that slowly develops on this disc can be overwhelming, too; it’s especially moody. Once again though, these are themes that will be familiar to fans.
Tyrant Of Death has found a setting that works, so much so that even comparatively weaker stuff is still incredibly high-quality. It’s just one of those albums that can become like a warm blanket super-quick, so perhaps Nuclear Nanosecond should come with a warning: It will envelop you in sound and feel like home but you become familiar with it very quickly. There are always new things to discover in each song, but the overall approach has a comfort-food aspect going for it.
Where Tyrant Of Death goes next will be interesting to see, because now that there seems to be a defined sound for this project, pushing the boundaries of what can be done will be both challenging and exciting. The songs will likely become more warped and likely more intense judging by the pattern of these releases so far, and that’s going to be great. How he accomplishes that past the wall of guitars, the overbearing electronics, and the insane-as-hell death metal drumming is what will be exciting to see.