Psycroptic are one of Australia’s premiere technical death metal bands, if not one of the best technical death metal bands in general. The tight drumming style of skinsman Dave Haley coupled with brother and guitarist Joe Hayley’s flamboyant riffage is a force to be reckoned with. Their newest effort, ‘As the Kingdom Drowns‘, is the latest in a long line of brutal yet serpentine songs. On this album, the Hayley brothers and singer Json Peppiatt bring relative new-comer to the Psycroptic world, bassist Todd Stern into the fold, who makes his recording debut with the band.
After a few mediocre albums in their past, it seems as though Psycroptic have learnt from their mistakes, as most of this album is pure gold in song form.
TRACK 1 – ‘We Were the Keepers’
The opening song and first single, ‘We Were the Keepers’, is by far one of the best Psycroptic songs in a long time. It manages to have that signature Psycroptic guitar wizardry whilst also bringing in a new, almost symphonic element to the band. Not to get biased, but I reckon that the breakdown in ‘We Were the Keepers’ is one of the most groovy parts in any Psycroptic song ever. To digress, as the tradition with most of their later albums, it seems that they have strong openers with songs like the title track from ‘(Ob) servant’, “Carriers of the Plague” from ‘The Inherited Repression’ and “Echoes to Come” from their self-titled album. But where this album is different is that all the songs manage to maintain the same standard of songwriting throughout the run-time.
TRACK 2 – ‘Frozen Gaze’
Track 2 and the final single released in promotion of the album is ‘Frozen Gaze’, which brings back the band’s sound akin to 2015’s self-titled effort, as it relies heavily on its groovy riffage as opposed to the previous track on the album. The vocal phrasing on ‘Frozen Gaze’ also sees Jason Peppiatt experiment a bit more with his vocal phrasing rather than sticking to the signature barks we’re used to by now. This song is another example of Psycroptic incorporating new elements with the choirs in the chorus. The choirs are a welcome change for this album, but it does get overused quite a bit in the album. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the band at all.
TRACK 3 – ‘Directive’
Track 3 and the second single/first music video for the album is the song ‘Directive’, an uber groovy track destined to get the house movin’ when they tour in support of the album. At this point, any new-comer to Psycroptic would say that the guitar work almost sounds the same, which it can. But guitarist Joe Haley does so much more in the fast phrases than people think, sometimes incorporating tapping, pinch-squeals, or both at the same time.
TRACK 4 – ‘Deadlands’
Moving on to track 4, ‘Deadlands’, we finally get something we haven’t heard in Psycroptic for a long time, or possibly even ever, a guitar solo. You could argue that Psycroptic riffs are basically guitar solos anyway, but this is such a welcome change to Psycroptic (again). So far, the album is looking like it’s way more diverse than anything they’ve done in the past 10 years.
TRACK 5 – ‘As the Kingdom Drowns’
The title track for the album, ‘As the Kingdom Drowns’, strikes the listener with a trudging, thumping groove that seems like the entire song would be based on, until it stops dead in its tracks and ratchets up the tempo in the process. This happens a few times throughout the song and starts to get predictable, until we get a symphonic punch-to-the-face in the last minute and a half of the song, closing with a choir and piano passage.
TRACK 6 – ‘Beyond the Black’
Right from the start, you can tell that this song has the Psycroptic blood through and through, with a mosh-friendly spear-headed Joe Haley riff from the get-go. This song also brings back the choirs on the chorus again but instead of it feeling as if it’s repeating a couple other songs on the album, it feels like a new element again as the chord progressions behind the choirs also make it seem like something we haven’t heard on a Psycroptic album.
TRACK 7 – ‘Upon These Stones’
Akin to the introduction of “Echoes to Come” from Psycroptic’s self-titled album, this songs introduction instead of ratcheting up to a full-on death metal rampage like per usual for a Psycroptic song in the last decade, it maintains a steady groove while also incorporating a big reverberating effect in the first minute and a half of the song. It does eventually go off to another Joe Haley spasm which I could now joke is pretty much the ‘Special Sauce’ in any Psycroptic song. After repeating a few times, as most songs do, we get a complete breakdown of all instruments in the bridge of the song to shine a light onto the drum work of Dave Haley, which is very prominent on ‘Upon These Stones’.
TRACK 8 – ‘Momentum of the Blind’
‘Momentum of the Blind’ feels like a usual Psycroptic song and doesn’t exactly show a new side of the band like almost every other song on the album has displayed so far in the album. That’s not to say it’s a weak song, though. This song would be an absolute highlight if it were on ‘The Inherited Repression’ or the self-titled album. Joe Haley’s guitar work, as usual, stands out in this song with the extremely groovy yet intricate passages he lays out for the listener. The stop and start passage at the forty second mark in the song is an interesting element to a rather usual Psycroptic as well.
TRACK 9 – ‘You Belong Here, Below’
The album closer, ‘You Belong Here, Below’, is a balls out death-thrash Psycroptic tune almost through and through. It seems as if they aren’t trying anything new at the end point of the album however and from this point the album starts to depreciate in quality and interest factor.
‘As the Kingdom Drowns’ is by far the best Psycroptic album in over a decade. It not only has perfected the Psycroptic death metal “sauce”, but it also brings new elements and doesn’t seem to struggle when it comes to bringing these new elements. Songs such as the singles ‘We Were the Keepers’, ‘Directive’ and ‘Upon These Stones’ bring out completely different sounds of the Psycroptic canon. Deep cuts such as ‘Deadlands’, the title track and ‘Beyond the Black’ also manage to bring new elements to the band. But songs such as ‘Frozen Gaze’, ‘Momentum of the Blind’ and ‘You Belong Here, Below’ are good in their own right, but they don’t go outside of the boundaries like most of the others on this album and therefore sound like material from the last decade or so. Again, that’s not to say that the album is bad. All of these songs are better than the last decade of material Psycroptic have released, but compared to newer death metal bands such as Archspire or Beyond Creation, they aren’t quite as creative in that regard.
Get this one right here!