(DGR reviews the new second album from Canada’s Unsacred Seed.)
Recently I’ve found myself playing with the idea of opening my reviews and articles with a description of how I found each band. Putting it politely, I’m probably a total idiot for doing so, yet I feel like I’m upholding some sort of noble cause by showing that sites like this one don’t entirely rely on whatever PR an agency leaves on our doorstep. Not to say that it doesn’t help to have such assistance, if not just to keep us from going out in public and looking like fools — but I do believe that by showing that there are other paths to getting noticed, perhaps it will demonstrate that putting a little faith in the universe and casting yourself out there can get you noticed. If not, at the very least it makes the process feel a little less “monied”. Maybe it’s just a sense that surfing the net to try and find music is a worthwhile and rewarding venture, one that doesn’t depend on just letting folks shovel stuff in front of you — although, come to think of it, that notion pretty much undermines the purpose of a site such as this.
In the case of Unsacred Seed, however, I cannot remember for the life of me how I found them. I think it may have been a random forum discovery, one of the many devoted to archiving much of what was released in 2013, where one of the band members was sharing his own work — their debut disc for “name your own price”. Thus, I wound up following the band, not only out of personal curiosity but also because I enjoyed that debut disc quite a bit. When I heard they had a followup in the works, that made things more exciting.
Before we really get to the meat of this meal, allow me to state that there are three things that I absolutely love about Canada’s Unsacred Seed:
Their logo, which veers dangerously close to Archspire territory and serves as a reminder that I really enjoy that band as well.
Their hometown, which is the city of London… Ontario. It’s the fucking perfect city to catch any non-fact-checking writer completely off guard.
Finally, that the band made their very first release — a solid first step to prove what type of band they were — as a “name your own price” download from the get-go. Apparently, that worked well enough that the band were able to crowdfund a proper sequel: 2014’s new release Frontiers, which is both a continuation of what the band started on their self-titled as well as a proper evolution of their tech-death-plus-electronics approach combined with some really good production work.
Unsacred Seed’s aspirations place them firmly within the current tech-death scene as it goes head-to-head with its brutal-death sibling and its deathcore cousin for the affections of fans. Much of the music on this disc veers between a thick groove-heavy atmosphere and the relentless blasting of death metal. However, the band make some interesting attempts to keep themselves just outside the realm of any one genre, consistently adding keyboards and synthesizer work to the mix, on top of heavily distorting themselves.
At times, the band can call to mind the group Sumatra with their heavy, low growls and high, ice-shattering screams, yet they don’t go entirely into the constant-breakdown territory of groups such as that. Instead, Unsacred Seed always seem to have one or two guitar leads going, so things are always far more sinister (in one case, the song “Artilects” unintentionally calls to mind the theme of the animated Batman series of the 90’s). More often than not, though, Unsacred Seed play a sci-fi, groove-oriented brand of technical death metal where the blast beats come with a slow, military-like precision. The electronic elements are often in the background in the appearance of one or two industrial flares and very rarely come to the forefront.
“Temporal Distortions”, for instance, features a quick, metal-clanging sound at the beginning of its blade-sharp opening riff segment before the song quickly descends into the fiery depths of another bombing all the way down the fretboard guitar riff. Unsacred Seed are humongous fans of the gallop, and that shows time and time again throughout much of Frontiers. So if you’re looking for a hefty fix of tremolo-picked guitar runs with high shrieks over the top of them, then I have the album for you.
The group’s two-pronged vocal attack is the order of the day across all of Frontiers, occupying two very opposite ends of the spectrum. Vocalist Dee Lyons has a super-low growl that gets more multi-faceted throughout the disc. The highs are of the black metal shriek type, and there are moments on this album where the two combine in an absolutely epic fashion, as in the whole middle section of the hammering song “Higher Dimensions”. The band decide to just go for the full wall of sound during that song, with the bass and guitars just ripping their way through as the drums buttress the foundation with a double-bass attack. That’s when the high vocals come in and soar over the top. It happens multiple times throughout the song, in between each batch of mathematically angular riffs that the band throw at the listener.
I can’t claim to be privy to much of the band’s mythology, or what in the world a Higgs Klonzon is, outside of having a relationship to a couple songs on the previous release, but the band’s lyrical matters are plainly building a larger story and concept than the usual gore-and-viscera splatterfest. You really do get a taste for Unsacred Seed’s love of the twin-guitar lead and epic buildup during that “Higgs Klonzon” intro, though, especially as it builds into the titular “Frontiers” song — itself a pretty good tutorial of what you’re in for on the rest of the disc.
“Frontiers” is a combo of everything the band do over the span of four minutes. You get a quick programmed drum break, multiple downbeat-focused riffs, the lovely guitar squeals and tears at the end of some riffs, and some peeling off for space and at other times being dragged back to Earth by sheer force. You get the roaring passages of drum work where the band become a wall of sound, and you get the vocals rotating between thick grunts and highs. Every song after that is a bunch of those elements sheered away from the rock face of Frontiers and expounded upon, some songs far more -core heavy and others actually veering into melodeath territory. Mostly though, it’s grooves forged within a planet’s core and unleashed as a rain of heavy lead to be dropped upon the listener when least expected.
Unsacred Seed are a young band with only four years of activity to their name, making their current output, which ranges from good to great, pretty damned impressive. Frontiers is an eight-track proving ground for the band, and each test that the group set for themselves, they meet and squash easily. It fulfills much of what the band were promising on their self-titled disc last year, and it’s shocking to think that only a year separated the two. That this London (Ontario, god I love this)-based band could have come up with the material on Frontiers in that space of time is incredible. It’s exciting to think of what could come, in time, if the band are able to continue their career.
Frontiers shows that this band can capably perform a slamming, electrifying, and groove-heavy version of death metal and that they can blend that with a science-fiction theme and concept and nary blink an eye while doing it. Frontiers is as dense as the stars it explodes in its lyrics, with so much going on that a listen feels like a journey, with a very finite beginning and end. The in-between part is a heavy, crushing experience that invokes the darker aspects of space and all its wanton destruction. This is one of those times you can get in with a promising group on the ground floor, and you’d be a lesser person for missing the opportunity.