New and exciting scientific discoveries are made every day. Whether we discover new nebulas, planets with water that can sustain life, or humanity finds Shrek 5 in Area 51, Allegaeon are there to scream about the importance of what the universe has to offer. Singer Riley McShane takes the time to write intricate lyrics that delve into the overwhelming abyss of cell division and the scientific phenomena that is creation and biology. In songs such as “The Secular Age,” “Exothermic Chemical Combustion,” and “Metaphobia,” McShane brings forth the necessity for human life to take care of the planet, as we are created from the most astonishing pieces of materials that we cannot see. “Apoptosis” shows the growth of musicianship within its members, although many thought this to be nearly impossible, while fitting everything into each other like a game of Sudoku.
Allegaeon are known mostly for their technical abilities and occasional shenanigans outside of the musical writing process. Listening to the introduction of the album, “Parthenogenesis,” immediately heard are some incredible instrumentation to start. Bassist Brandon Michael starts the song with some labyrinthine tapping with drummer Brandon Park throwing in some jazzy hi-hat hits and tossing in a slight ritardando half-way through. The guitarists Greg Burgess and Michael Stacel enter, adding layers to the scene like a delicious, scientific cake. Each musician then slowly ascends their instruments’ scales and brings it to a head by coming in with a Megadeth-esque riff. This is the beginning of the band showing off what they have in store to offer; the word “parthenogenesis” is described by Wikipedia as a “natural form of asexual reproduction in which growth and development of embryos occur without fertilization.” This title is given no explanation as the song is instrumental, yet the reasoning behind the title could very well be the idea that the band is showing a taste of what new tricks they have developed. “Apoptosis” is their fifth record, they have asserted themselves as Technical/Melodic Death Metal champions, throwing in neoclassical pieces that have improved with each release.
“Parthenogenesis” smoothly transitions into the first song with McShane, “Interphase // Meiosis.” Creating a spacious atmosphere with slow, vibrant acoustics in the background with the slow strumming of distorted guitars, McShane enters the scene with a growl from the depths of his soul. Park then proceeds to crank his feet up to 11, grinding out 32nd notes and matching the speed of the guitarists. The song continues with a rather dynamic riff, less technical or melodic and more straight-forward heaviness. Park’s blast beats have gotten faster, stronger, and he is not afraid to unleash his killer fills. As the song collects itself, reeling in the atmospheric elements again, McShane begins to scream about cells and scientific intricacy that I do not have the mental capacity to fathom. That is the great thing about Allegaeon: lyrically, going back and forth between strict sciences and telling the general populous to open their eyes to Earth’s destruction, it all requires the listener to envelope themselves in the meaning of the words. It requires fans to sit down, take time to grasp what is being said, and potentially learn new theories that may come up in conversation. “Interphase // Meiosis” is a track that blends in new elements of heaviness and the good ol’ melodies that Allegaeon fans crave. A great song that certainly edges the fan to continue listening, trading solos between the guitarists and including more cut-through bass tones in this – and future – songs.
“Extremophiles (B)” graciously flies in with a slow fade, making the listener’s heart gallop with excitement. As the introduction comes to a point, the real song begins with guitars and drums matching in rhythm. The newly-revealed heavier side of Allegaeon is blended strategically and followed with the melodies that audiences know and love. McShane comes in, shaking off the dust left from the filth of their enticing riffage. A new side of McShane is shown: his disgusting gutturals. McShane has previously been in bands such as Continuum, Inanimate Existence, and Pathology for a brief time, making him no stranger to cookie-monster vocal aggression. The singer is able to articulate language thoroughly through the pinnacle ambiguity of mixing violence and melodic string work, while making the listener see that he can not only sing and scream but go beyond the standard mid-ranged vocal style. Giving a taste of his delicious vocal melodies, the continuation of a sock-full-of-bricks heaviness comes waltzing back into play. “Extremophiles (B)” showcases the growth of each musician to a new degree, allowing McShane and guitarists Burgress and Stacel to show off the difficulty of mastering their already-mastered techniques.
“The Secular Age” throws people back to “Proponent for Sentience,” but with a twist. While most of Allegaeon’s songs play around with the darker side of musical technicality, “Apoptosis” often references more major scales than their previous releases. While “Fragments of Form and Function” had a more mechanical and industrial aesthetic, ticking like clockwork, “Apoptosis” has the band stand on two feet and balance out their sound. There is a bit of everything for everyone in the music that they write: there’s fast, shreddy solos and technically challenging licks, and “Apoptosis” brings in more thrashy usage of their dissonant eight string glory. “The Secular Age” shows the importance of sticking with a theme throughout an album, and by the fourth song the theme is set: science, but in a more upbeat key. Whereas older songs such as “Biomech: Vals No. 666” or “Behold (God I Am)” boast more diminished and minor scale usage, Allegaeon continues to explore and push beyond their own personal boundaries that musicians wish they could obtain as fast as these young titans of Technical/Melodic Death Metal.
An upbeat banger of a track, “Exothermic Chemical Combustion,” drives right into the eardrums of all listeners and the chemistry of the band shines through brighter than before. The musical tightness of each riff, solo, and scream sends a chill up one’s spine with sheer joy at the fact that these are people who have been a band for some time now and are not afraid to try new things in a world that demands both change and similarity to the old. Time will tell where Allegaeon will take their sound, as they have crafted a perfectly baked treat, making their audiences drool with ebullience after each bite.
The second half of the album doesn’t hold as many new surprises, which is the album’s only downfall, if you can call it that. There are new crabs in the Allegaeon kitchen, but they are playing it safe by not letting all their skeletons in the cupboard out at once. Changing a few aspects from their old music allows for the album to feel refreshing and rejuvenate the vitality of the band. McShane throws in more clean singing into the mix, not afraid to show off his godly pipes, while Burgess flashes his neoclassical intimacy in “Color of the Currents.” The ever-impressive improvements of each band member seem to only grow with each album, which to the average listener can be intimidating, but it all feels intrinsic. Nothing about “Apoptosis” is forced, rather another dynamic addition to the band’s prodigious discography.
FFO: Vale of Pnath, Obscura, Alkaloid