Sep 142023

Across all the many sub-genres of extreme and not-so-extreme metal, there’s an upper echelon of technical virtuosity — musicians who, through some combination of genetics, devotion to practice, and experience, are exceptionally good performers.

Across the same range of sub-genres there is also an upper echelon of composers who have a knack for writing songs that not only make an immediate impact but also get stuck in people’s heads and stay there — albeit for differing reasons.

To achieve success it’s not necessary for a band to combine both types of exceptionalism. For example, as the ongoing tech-death arms race demonstrates, some bands do quite well moving at ferocious speeds and demonstrating exceptional dexterity, even when there’s not much more than that on offer. On the other hand, other bands are capable of consistently leaving people humming, head-nodding, and remembering, with music that makes few technical demands.

But when a band not only achieves rarefied heights of technical skill at all positions but also conceives of songwriting ideas that are so far outside the ordinary as to be startling, and memorable for that reason, the results can be truly exceptional.

Which of course brings us to Alkaloid and their new album Numen.

photo by Christian Martin Weiss

We have already commented about the unpredictable and frequently mind-bending wonders encompassed by this 70-minute work in the weeks leading toward its September 15 release by Season of Mist, culminating in Andy Synn’s detailed, and shall we say “nuanced”, review last week.

As Andy wrote, “Finding the right way to write about a band like Alkaloid isn’t easy”:

“After all, not only are the band’s collective technical talents practically unparalleled, but their uniquely unorthodox songwriting style – which has become more and more dominated by the influence and input of legendary uber-drummer Hannes Grossmann over the years – has allowed them to venture into places that most ‘heavy’ bands likely wouldn’t even dare, which makes all the usual methods and measures hard to apply.”

Very true, which is why in the case of Numen, listening is the best way to try to comprehend Alkaloid‘s unusual intertwining of extreme, eccentric, eldritch, and also engaging sensations. We’re providing that chance now. It’s a chance you should take, whether or not you’ve been a fan of Alkaloid‘s previous albums.

photo by Christian Martin Weiss

The album does represent an inventive musical evolution (or mutation) by these über-talented musicians — Morean, Christian Münzner, Linus Klausenitzer, and the afore-mentioned Hannes Grossmann. As Andy wrote, Numen “sees them honing and refining their proggier and more melodic side while still maintaining their established intelligence and unpredictability”. And further:

It also finds the band wearing their influences even more loudly and proudly than ever – whether that’s the post-Pink Floyd Prog-Pop vibes underpinning early highlight “Clusterfuck”, the moody Metallica-esque grandeur of “A Fool’s Desire”, or the Morbid Angel-inspired grooves of “The Fungi from Yuggoth” – with the newly slimmed-down quartet clearly confident that, at this stage of things, whatever they do and whatever direction they choose to go in it will always sound like Alkaloid in the end.

It’s also true, as Andy wrote, that although Numen has its fair share of brutality, the album tends to “reinforce the idea that Alkaloid are often at their best when they’re at their weirdest”. Which takes us back to the opening point.

Songs like the ones you’ll encounter on Numen couldn’t be conceived without highly active imaginations (which is also evident in Morean‘s off-planet and other-dimensional thematic conceptions), but even most musicians with far-ranging imaginations who might somehow think of doing things like Alkaloid do on Numen would quickly discard the ideas after realizing, sooner or later, that there’s no way they could properly execute them.

In Alkaloid‘s case, one imagines them thinking, “We can do this, and therefore we will do this.” But one also imagines them thinking, “We can surprise people in a different way, with this melody, these voices, and those not-metal influences, and therefore we will.”

Will you get equal enjoyment from all the warping twists and turns that happen among and within the songs on this big double-album? Only one way to find out. Is it worth the time to find out? Oh hell yes, it really is.


Season of Mist will release Numen tomorrow on multiple CD and LP vinyl formats, with apparel, and on streaming services. It features the spectacular cover art created for Numen by Christian Martin Weiss.





  1. This album is a masterclass on progressive death metal. The songwriting here is unusual and absolutely thrilling. You never know what’s coming next. I love this record (we are getting towards year end too).

  2. …oh yeah, and that album cover!

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