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CD Review: ILLOGICIST The Unconsciousness of Living

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Axiomatic in all technical variants of heavy metal – whether it be prog, thrash, death or otherwise – is that it is as much about the quality of the riff as your ability to warp time signatures into hairpin turns.  The latter emphasis was elevated to a peak of outright burlesque on Spiral Architect's lone album, 2000's singular masterpiece A Skeptic's Universe.  Chops as outsider art-in-itself was so comprehensively explored on that album that even the members of Spiral Architect themselves have spent over a decade at the drawing board figuring out how to follow it up.

Compared to Decapitated – whom many would posit the best in the world right now at this technical death metal thing – Illogicist is just that much more devoted to the riff itself.  Comparisons do not otherwise arise naturally because, in spite of ties to death metal due to cookie monster vocals and the occasional blast beat, Illogicist primarily hark back to the early 90's template of Cynic and Death, a thrash-paced, fluid assembly of jagged yet catchy riffs that seemed diced up and reassembled William Burroughs style but never really bash you over the head with sheer velocity.

The opening chords of "The Same Old Collision" deftly illustrate this, a chunky riff trilling away into escalating triplets before reconsidering, returning to a moderate pace, and then starting over again.  By the time the vocals kick in, that opening riff pattern has long been cast aside but the trade off between melodic single note leads and brutal power chords stitched together out of fractured time signatures is a recurrent theme throughout the song, and really the album as a whole.

Probably the smartest move Illogicist made in crafting The Unconsciousness of Living was in not trying to outdo 2007's breakthrough, The Insight Eye.   The production has opened up and is far crisper here, but otherwise the band continue playing to their strengths instead of attempting to go completely over-the-top (if you put any stock in interviews, most metal musicians seem to insist that each of their albums is their most brutal to date; motherfuckers need to quit).


Free of the song intros and keyboard interludes that mar and bloat most prog-related metal albums, The Unconsciousness of Living is a brisk 45 minutes that gives one all the dizzying technicality they can handle without ever overstaying its welcome.  Illogicist are not quite earth shattering enough in their originality to earn the type of effusive hyperbole the likes of Opeth and Meshuggah enjoy, but make no mistake:  in the context of semi-traditionalist technical thrash they're easily among the best at what they do, and until now have not gotten nearly the credit they deserve.  It's high time to change that.

9 out of 10

The Unconsciousness of Living is out now on Willowtip.

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