July 16, 2008

CD Review: Neuraxis - The Thin Line Between

Since their formation in 1994, Neuraxis has been turning out high quality technical/progressive/death metal on a pretty regular basis. At least that is what I have read about the Canadian quintet. Prior to getting my hands on their latest creation I had never heard of them. Of course, that isn't saying a lot, a lot of the bands I have reviewed I had never previously encountered prior to said review. Do you have any idea how many bands are out there? Let's narrow it down a little bit, do you have any idea how many good metal bands are lurking beneath the radar? I know, doesn't help much does it? Let's just agree that there are more bands worth listening to (or at least sampling) than any one of us has time to do so. Neuraxis happens to be one of the lucky bands to have fallen on my radar, or is it the other way around? In any case, The Thin Line Between is an impressive album.

This album is a fascinating excursion into musical experimentation. I have heard other acts similar to them, but there is something about them that stands out. There is a delicate balance between sheer absolute brutality and pitch perfect technicality, and this balance is accomplished while keeping the speed at a fever pitch, the album surging forward, and nothing sounding boring or repetitious. This balancing act cannot be an easy task, as it could be very easy to get sidetracked into the technical at the expense of the brutal nature, or vice versa.

When you listen to The Thin Line Between you will find music that is fresh, digs itself into your head and rattles around for a while. The album begins with the tech-fest "Darkness Prevails," a cut that unleashes a technical gut punch. This is followed by a series of body blows as Neuraxis attempt to redefine death metal.

The iea of technical death metal with an eye towards the progressive is relatively new to me. Yes, I have heard other similar bands, but that does not change the fascinating blending of genres. It is like they were not content to be either progressive nor pure death, but they had to deconstruct them down to their essence and reconstructed from the ground up into a whole new beast. Now, it's not quite accurate, but the sound is something akin to the combined essences of Dream Theater and Fear Factory with an extra dash of brutality. Mix this combination well, serves many.

If there is one thing that doesn't really grab me, it would have to be the vocals of Alexandre Leblanc. It is not that he is bad, it is they don't particularly stand out. His voice is of the cookie monster variety, and while it works for the music, it is not terribly distinctive. Fortunately, the rest of the band is there to pick him up, particularly guitarists Robin Milley and Will Seghers.

The guitar duo is the centerpiece of Neuraxis. These guys turn out some fascinating and complex rhythms, changing tempos, directions, while keeping a rhythm you can bang your head to. The sounds range from straight up chuggers to technical runs to some eerie atmospherics (check out "Wicked"). With some strong double bass work backing them up, the guitars provide the real show here, at least for me.

Bottomline. While I would not call them one of my favorite bands, they are definitely a band of interest. Tech death is one of those genre mash ups that has the potential to deliver some wildly extreme and brutal music, not to mention cerebral. The Thin Line Between blurs the line between the genres and the results are favorable.



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