(TheMadIsraeli reviews the new album by Maze of Sothoth from Italy, which is set for release by Everlasting Spew on January 9.)
Maze Of Sothoth are a staggeringly difficult band to quantify. The Lovecraftian theme certainly points to a band who might enjoy the eldritch, ambiguous, and alien, but whereas extreme metal bands generally attempt to capture all this through sound gimmicks, melodic dispositions, or atmospheric songwriting, Maze Of Sothoth bring forth a style of technical/brutal death metal that tackles that sub-genre from an almost de-constructionist, absurdist, and reductionist point of view.
Soul Demise is rooted in what is still death metal’s best period (in my opinion), which was the ’90s boom that produced a perfect blend of technicality, brutality, and songwriting — they exhibit all the best qualities of this period. In the tradition of that period, Maze Of Sothoth’s sound is also really unique owing to that reductionist perspective.
In essence, MOS do two things really well: They know how to write a good riff that’s got a 33.3/33.3/33.3 split of technical, hooky, and sinister, which is a trademark of the era I’m comparing them to. The other thing, which is immensely important to understand, is that they know how to write deliberate nonsense.
What the fuck is deliberate nonsense, you ask? Well, in terms of music theory, more specifically within the rules of how most people are thought to understand melody, Maze Of Sothoth are almost always breaking the rules. The riffs are not defined by what melody they carry, but rather what melody they are flirting with but choosing to disregard at the conclusion. A lot of the death metal we really like to praise in this modern age sticks to a melodic premise. Many bands don’t know how to alter a melody outside of its boundaries to create something new and unique. This is something Maze Of Sothoth do, a lot.
No riff on Soul Demise is ever allowed to become easily digestible despite exhibiting that perfect balance of composition which makes them 100% discernable and defined. The fact that these guys are totally unafraid to write a riff that is complete nonsense, but has definitive hooks that are reliant on the nonsensical elements of their riffing, is one of the band’s biggest strengths by far. A lot of death metal bands struggle with how NOT to be melodic, resulting in music by some bands who blast their nonsense at such high speeds that they lose the sinister, evil, chaotic vibe of death metal. Maze of Sothoth avoid that problem.
The solos on the record are this way too. You can’t really describe HOW they are memorable, but they are, in the context of the riff that’s carrying them. It’s all alien. Fabio Marasco and Riccardo Rubini could give less of a shit whether the solos they play are even remotely related to the riffs underneath. The solo-to-riff relationship within Maze Of Sothoth’s music is not that they are made to gel together, but rather that they live in different dimensions parallel to each other. In some universe, that solo has a riff underneath it that perfectly matches up with it, but here the riffs and solos mesh only at points, like the two dimensions are having brief moments of crossover with each other. These guys are masters at death metal guitar composition.
Where Maze Of Sothoth further define themselves is in their push/pull, in terms of how much or how little body or meat a section of music has. Riffs you’d normally expect to include guitar harmonization are left to stand on their own, or vice-versa. Some riffs are exceedingly technical while others could’ve been written by a monkey smacking a guitar held up for him to abuse. I suppose I’m just really a fan of this sort of extreme contrast.
I think the song “Multiple Eyes” really reinforces these thoughts. All these riffs by modern death metal standards should have more flair, and more layers than they have. None of these riffs requires two guitar players, and the central riff, while definitely catchy and memorable, is also deliberately empty-feeling by modern death metal’s standards. It is as if the band are making a statement of rejection of death metal’s modernity — a good riff is a good riff, and if it’s a good riff it requires zero bells and whistles. In a way, Maze Of Sothoth are taking a spiteful shit on all of their more modern-minded and popular peers, and they succeed immaculately in doing so.
Don’t even get me started either on the drumming of Matteo Moioli. This guy FUCKING GETS IT when it comes to nuance and dynamics within death metal. He’s got a style of definitive forward momentum coming at you in the form of a locust swarm. Opposed to the riffing on the record, he is so noisy and busy in contrast that he really does accomplish the role of supplying the chaos. One problem with more excessively technical death metal is that both the guitars and drums manifest the same level of intensity. You need one or the other to be different, to create a contrast between them. Just look at the template of Polish death metal, with simple guitars and over-the-top drumming, which is just endlessly effective.
Soul Demise is an embrace of the most timeless of death metal’s elements combined with a refinement of its greatest decade. It’s de-constructionist in the sense that it challenges modern death metal’s gratuitous excess, reductionist in its defiance of excessive musical ornamentation, and absurdist in its willingness to not make sense and to betray humanity’s innate need to find or maintain order. Soul Demise is a powerful and vicious death metal record that acts as an affront to much of what modern death metal has become. I fucking love it.
Buy that shit.