(Todd Manning rejoins us with the following review of the debut album by Obsolete, which was released not long ago through Unspeakable Axe Records.)
I don’t know about anyone else, but as time goes on, I find myself more obsessed with groups such as Watchtower, Atheist and Sadus. And now it’s time to add a new name to the list. Riding a fine line between Tech-Thrash and early Death Metal, Animate//Isolate is the stunning debut full-length from Minneapolis-based band Obsolete.
While some bands from the Tech-Thrash movement could create a pretty obscure sound (see Watchtower or Sieges Even’s Steps), Obsolete never sacrifice immediacy in their quest for mind-bending technicality. The riffs stampede relentlessly, and the harsh vocals are firmly rooted in Death Metal. And while most the beats deconstruct and reassemble classic Thrash workouts, they find opportunities to squeeze in blast beats as well as softer moments.
Animate//Isolate possesses no lack of standout tracks. Opener “Still” rips as savagely as one might expect, but is followed by “The Atrophy of Will”, which sees the group expanding their sonic palette. While still ceaselessly brutal, the opening barrage will snap necks with its rapid-fire changes, the drums careening recklessly from one beat to the next. The mid-section of the song seems to give a nod to Human-era Death, which is never a bad thing. A blazing solo followed by some head-nodding Death Metal brings the track to a close.
“Old Horizon”, a reworking of a tune from the group’s 2018 demo, shows the mood switch to an almost cosmic feel. Here, the sound vacillates between Theory in Practice or maybe Pestilence, either way it’s simultaneously vicious yet expansive. Also from the same demo, “Silent Freeway” hearkens more towards straight-up Tech-Thrash, evoking the ghosts of Toxik and Sadus. Despite the maze-like composition, the song is full of plenty of air-guitar-worthy moments.
Perhaps saving the best for last, the album closes with the powerful “Intercostal”. The opening riff walks a fine line between pure headbanging bliss and time-signature madness. Once again, Chuck Schuldiner and company loom large. The riffs are deceptively complex, as if this many notes shouldn’t prove so catchy. The blast beats prove especially devastating here, breaking up the various guitar workouts with moments of brutality.
There seem to be some rumblings of the return of this particular brand of Tech Thrash, updated in order to measure up to the brutality of today’s Metal scene. If this is the case, Obsolete are making a strong case with Animate//Isolate for their place at the forefront of the movement. Let’s hope there is plenty of stiff competition to fuel their rise to the top of the heap.