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ALLEGAEON Apoptosis

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Thursday, April 25, 2019 @ 11:32 AM


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ALLEGAEON
Apoptosis

Metal Blade Records




Over its first four albums, Colorado quintet ALLEGAEON seem to have found the sweet spot between progressive/tech dexterity, conceptual grandiosity, death metal gnarliness and gut-punch groove. The band has even shown it can handle more commercial fare with some aplomb, knocking out stellar covers of RUSH's “Subdivisions” and “Animate” on and after its last album, 2016's Proponent of Sentience.

Apoptosis, ALLEGAEON's new fifth album, features all of the above in ample qualities – except, for the most part, the commercial aspect, although the bonus edition does feature a rendition of J.S. Bach's "Concerto In Dm (BWV 1052)" – and ties these elements together with confidence and guile so it all doesn't come out sounding like a schizophrenic mess. Indeed, the album is tight and direct almost to a fault, given the consistent packaging, delivery and tone of the material.

But after the relative bloat of Proponent For Sentience, which clocked in at a hefty 72 minutes, a bit of streamlining is certainly welcome. Apoptosis pares back some of the thematic loftiness and technical indulgence and offers up a comparatively leaner and meaner 57 minutes. The title track is about the only stretch where the band really gets its prog on, offering a twisty-turny, 10-plus minute opus loaded with solo tradeoffs and clean/dirty vocal back and forth to close the album out with epic panache.

Yet aside from the meandering, expansive “Apoptosis”, the classical guitar duet “Colors of the Currents” featuring lone original member Greg Burgess and guest Christina Sandsengen, and the instrumental opener “Parthenogenesis” that gives new bassist Brandon Michael an opportunity to demonstrate his nimble fingers right out of the gate, the album is a relatively all-business affair. Sure the agile guitaring, gymnastic vocals and turbulent rhythms do remain, but the songs are largely driven by churning grooves and determined – and occasionally accelerated as on, fittingly, “Extremophiles (B)” or “Metaphobia” – tempos. Heaviness rules here over nuance, which after Proponent probably isn't a bad strategy.

If anything, though, the band is guilty of a bit of overcompensation – or perhaps undercompensation as the case may be. A certain sameness in the material develops as the album moves along without some of the razzle-dazzle that Proponent provided. But by the same token, there are more memorable hooks here, so in the end, it's six of one, a half-dozen of the other. Or damned if you do, damned if you don't – pick your cliché.

After the fanciful funk/tech-death/flamenco of “Parthenogenesis”, a cascade of crunching riffs that carries over through the bulk of the album begins in earnest on “Interphase // Meiosis”. And in contrast to its aforementioned companion track, “Extremophiles (A)” boasts a simpler, even catchy construction as do, to a lesser extent, the wickedly hooky “Exothermic Chemical Combustion” and “The Secular Age” with its buoyant choruses, all of which give Apoptosis some real teeth.

Even if the songs do start to run together by the time the “Colors of the Currents” interlude comes around, they don't overreach or wear out their welcome. Frontman Riley McShane was new behind the mic on Proponent and the band probably felt like it had a lot of to prove with that album – hence its frills and ambitiousness. But after a cycle's worth of touring, ALLEGAEON seems to know better about when to say enough is enough. And, overall, Apoptosis benefits from its relative tidiness.

3.5 Out Of 5.0


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