Review: “Cyberstrictive” by Apogean

Drawing significant inspiration from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and echoing the dystopian excerpts of George Orwell’s 1984, “Cyberstrictive” is a concept record which explores the dark side of technology, shedding light on the poisonous effects it can have on our lives. It finds Canadian Technical Progressive Death Metal act Apogean joined for the first time by a new vocalist in Mac Smith, a man who recently served as the live vocalist of Decrepit Birth, who fills the shoes Michael “Spike” McConnell vacated after the bands 2021 debut EP “Into Madness“. As with that record, once again the band have hired Zack Ohren (The Faceless, Machine Head, Immolation) to mix and master…

Opening cut “Bluelight Sonata” features one of two guest guitar solos with Alex Baillie of Cognizance stepping up to the plate. A fearsome tune that sets the tone for the record with a menacing and sinister approach from the very start, you can feel the poison flowing through your veins as the technical riffage flies free from the fretboard. It has to be said that Smith is a beast of a vocalist worthy of note, his use of pitch giving the effect of multiple voices at times as he punches through the shroud of darkness the rhythmic battery wraps him in. Fleeting dark synths are also a tasteful addition, an embellishment rather than a backbone upon which anything hangs. A tale of the damage of overconsumption and the dangers of desensitization in media “Thousand-Yard Glare” has a perfectly executed downtempo passage in the first half that takes a leaf out of the Deathcore handbook before rising into Technical Death Metal like a phoenix from the ashes with weighty groove as heavy hitting as the lyrical narrative. A punchy little number with a brutal finale in which the plague winds emanate from Smith’s throat in a brutal roar, it’s very much the kind of track that will help elevate Apogean to a new realm. The vocal dynamic is chemically enhanced as “Distance (Of Walls and Wails)” comes into play with some harsh whispers and shriller moments providing another dimension. Nauseating off kilter riffs from guitarists Dexter Forbes and Gabriel Silva Castro and to the eerie atmosphere while the odd time signatures are enough to upset the balance of in the time space continuum.

Continuing to play with textures Jacob Wagner gets down to some serious blasting to accompany the more straightforward staccato riff infestations of “With Which Ear You’ll Listen“. Smith delivers a dark incantation that rises from a melodic drop off with almost cinematic melancholic synths before a spellbinding technical solo shreds the flesh of the ear drum to pieces as the band create something greater than the sum of their parts. Smith sounds like his personality is splitting with the unhinged vocals of “Imposter Reborn“, an ambient passage giving a momentary respite before the sucker punch of the second half hits like a jewel encrusted ceremonial hammer. It might look pretty with it’s complex guitar work and nuanced moments but it’s still a weapon that can bludgeon in the hands of the psychotic. Odd time signatures resurface with some of the rhythmic interplay of “Within the Bounds of a Simile” but what’s fantastic about this record as much as this band is that they never go into technical territory for the sake of it. Each moment is well thought out and crafted to ensure it inflicts maximum damage, the musicians dedication to their craft to be applauded. Paul Walsh is brought in to add a solo to “Hueman (The Pleasure of Burn)“, Apogean giving us an ethnic introduction passage that stuns before reaching critical mass once more. Fretboards smoke with the intensity of the riffs and this one finds the band in between the playful territories usually reserved for Nekrogoblikon and Inferi, such is their power and prowess.

The contrast between the beauty of the melodic passages and the brutality of the moments in between makes “Polybius” an incredible moment of utter madness. Artillery shelling kit work, staccato riff breaks, soaring leads and warm synths all come into play during a short and yet oh so sweet moment that feels like an introduction piece for “Spinthariscope” as much as it is a song in it’s own right. A sonic assault on the senses that stirs the soul as it plays out, the latter of the these seemingly conjoined twins is intriguingly diverse with a couple of moments of ambience with almost acid jazz vibes delicately placed between blood and thunder skull battering verses. Coming from Progressive Death Metal angle this one threatens to evolve into the avant-garde but doesn’t quite go that far. Robert Tam’s bass solo at the start of “An(t)imus” is a tasteful reminder of how important his role is however it doesn’t prepare you for the what the band have up their collective sleeves. Somehow the Canadians have managed to seamlessly interweave the rich melodies of Plini and Intervals with their crushing Death Metal and in so doing have created something that has violently stark contrasts in it that shouldn’t sit well together. Going against the grain and defying all logic, they have pulled the two extremes together and then given us a shoegazing moment in the fade out that will leave you wondering what you’ve just heard. A phenomenal record of sublime technical prowess that dances on the cerebral cortex as it pushes the envelope, this one is one to savour [8.5/10]

Track Listing

1. Bluelight Sonata (ft. Alex Baillie of Cognizance)
2. Thousand-Yard Glare
3. Distance (Of Walls and Wails)
4. With Which Ear You’ll Listen
5. Imposter Reborn
6. Within the Bounds of a Simile
7. Hueman (The Pleasure of Burn) (ft. Paul Walsh)
8. Polybius
9. Spinthariscope
10. An(t)imus

Cyberstrictive” by Apogean is out 8th March 2024 via The Artisan Era and is available over at bandcamp.

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