(Austin Weber reviews the new album by Continuum, which is out now on Unique Leader Records.)
The California death metal scene never ceases to amaze me. What really makes me happy about the music from that region is that much like the Canadian death metal scene, a lot of very talented players are a part of multiple groups, leading to an overall higher quality of material coming from theses areas. And so, for example, we are treated to death metal supergroups such as Continuum, who are composed of: Guitarist/main songwriter Chase Fraser (Decrepit Birth/ex-Son Of Aurelius/ex-Animosity), vocalist Riley McShane (Son Of Aurelius/ex-Inanimate Existence), bass player Nick Willbrand (Eviscerated, ex-Flesh Consumed), guitarist Ivan Munguia (Arkaik, Brain Drill, Deeds of Flesh), and drummer Spencer Edwards (Son Of Aurelius).
In addition, the band’s debut album The Hypothesis includes a guest solo by Matt Sotelo from Decrepit Birth on track 9, “A Surreal Descent”, as well as a sweet guest vocal spot by Anthony Trapani (Severed Savior/Odious Mortem) on the second track, “The Epiphany”.
Continuum traffic in a highly technical form of death metal comparable to Deeds Of Flesh, on crack, in space, as well as some influences from The Faceless and Necrophagist. Also, if you were a fan of the guitar and drum style present on the first Son Of Aurelius record, The Farthest Reaches, some riff and drum patterns pop up on The Hypothesis that you will love.
A few things about this record especially help put it in a higher tier of quality than many of their peers. The first and most important is the lean run time of the record — just over 30 minutes — which is actually a plus for this style of near-impenetrable, full-throttle death metal. The Hypothesis is composed largely of three-minute or less tracks that offer a succinct experience of death and horror. As a result, the band eschew repeating the same parts over and over in favor of cycling through a rapid-fire barrage of new riffs that change at a moment’s notice.
Let’s face it, I know I’m not the only one who enjoys this kind of music, but gets worn out by albums in this style that go on for too long — such as Origin’s 72-minute-long record, Antithesis. But even if you disagree with that assessment, it’s interesting to hear how Continuum cram so much into each track with a minimum of repeating the same parts over and over. On the flip side, that means you’ll need to give The Hypothesis a multitude of listens before you really take it all in and commit it to memory.
On an instrumental level, and as a defined trademark of this style, the individual members’ performances are both highly dexterous and jaw-dropping. Yet as hard as it is to put my finger on exactly why and how this material seems more appealing than most, I think part of it can simply be chalked up to the fact that most of these people have already played with each other in various other groups. And so there seems to be a very focused and united front on how all parts of the music converge together in an ultimate peak of blood-spurting insanity.
In addition to sporting a slim, sleek run time, the record spaces out the dense yet brief material with two instrumentals, “Absolute Zero”, a mechanical hum of whirring menace, and the rather evolved and drum-driven “Where The Worlds Were Left”. On a record as intense as this, they not only add quite a bit to the feel of the record, but also give your mind a way to better memorize the album by providing you two tracks that are totally different to latch onto before and after the surgical strikes in which the record abounds.
Continuum also have a penchant for meticulous technical grooves in their music, the kind that fans of Soreption will love. This is displayed most impressively on the not-djenty, but certainly hypnotically repetitive, album closer “The Steppes To Ascension”. Its ripping intro segues into spiraling angular grooves in a way that abstractly reminds me of Meshuggah. It’s an interesting close for a record like this, and I love it.
Continuum are a band you are going to want to familiarize yourselves with. The Hypothesis offers an incredible wealth of mesmerizing musical ideas and stands as a complex and masterful statement of how to rise above the rest of the technical death metal pack. Unique Leader has been on an impressive release streak, and if you are a fan of what they put out, this is one of the best things the label has ever released.
Spotify stream link: https://play.spotify.com/album/4ny7LJICToiEaAxjFFmONP