May 252023

(Professor D. Grover the XIIIth returns to our site with the following enthusiastic review of the second album by Montreal-based Pronostic, which was released in mid-May.)

Greetings and salutations, friends. The fretless bass holds an impressive position in the history of death metal, especially as it pertains to death metal’s more technical sub-branch. Present at the subgenre’s inception thanks to legends like Steve DiGiorgio and Sean Malone, the fretless bass has become especially popular with the current popularity of tech death, thanks to modern practitioners like Dominic “Forest” LaPointe, JP Thesseling, Linus Klausenitzer, and Hugo Doyon-Karout. LaPointe probably set the high water mark for absolute fretless mastery on the most recent First Fragment album, a performance that may never be surpassed.

If this seems like an odd way to start off a review, I say all of this because Pronostic‘s new bassist, Xavier Sperdouklis (also of the excellent Killitorous) has definitely added himself to the conversation on this new Pronostic record Chaotic Upheaval.

Speaking as someone who heard a couple Primus albums and decided to try to learn to play bass for a minute before realizing that there was an absolute and total lack of musical talent and rhythm, I tend to focus on the bass on a lot of albums so long as it differentiates itself sufficiently from the rest of the music. Sperdouklis‘ performance on Chaotic Upheaval is definitely the kind of thing that I can fixate on.

Alas, I’m putting the cart before the horse a bit here. Pronostic are a technical death metal band from Quebec, a veritable hotbed of brilliant tech death bands, consisting of Sperdouklis on bass as well as Alexandre Lauzon and Charles Pilotte, who split guitar and vocal duties. Chaotic Upheaval also features session drums from the talented Samuel Santiago, formerly of Gorod, and a sizable number of guest contributors in a variety of capacities. They play the style of tech death that I tend to gravitate toward, heavy on melodic leads and catchy riffs, and they do it exceptionally well.

If I were to make comparisons to some of the band’s contemporaries, for the sake of a starting point, I suppose I would use Obscura, Beyond Creation, and Exocrine, but those names only represent a small part of the story. The interweaving of guitar and bass, the willingness to let Sperdouklis take the lead at times, and the occasional foray from the beaten path to experiment a bit are what really define Chaotic Upheaval and keep the entire experience fresh.

The real beauty here is in the details, whether it’s as simple as the way that Sperdouklis alternates between tapping and sliding on the intro to the instrumental track ‘Waves’ or as unusual as the unexpected saxophone solo that surfaces during a chilled-out section of ‘Massive Disillusion’. Lauzon and Pilotte are an impressive duo, sometimes layering and sometimes trading off both their guitar melodies and their vocals, making for an impressive dynamic experience like on ‘Bare And Wretched’. Francesco Ferrini of Fleshgod Apocalypse adds keyboards and orchestral textures to a number of tracks, like ‘L’impureté Globale’, that serve to enhance the album without being a distraction.

The end result here is a surprisingly diverse collection of technical death metal tracks that hooked me early and kept me engaged throughout. As popular as technical death metal has been in the last decade and a half, the number of insanely talented musicians out there is staggering, and as I’ve said in past reviews, it takes more than just raw talent to really stand out. Pronostic manage to do just that with some truly impressive compositions, keeping me guessing at all times without losing my attention.

In a year with some excellent tech death releases (The World Is Quiet Here, Cause N Effect, Sky Pillar, and of course Gorod are just a few of this year’s best), Chaotic Upheaval really has what it takes to stand among them and will likely find itself in consistent rotation for months to come.

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