Now, here’s a tantalizing treat for any fan of technical death metal. Afterbirth are an extreme technical slamming death metal band that sound like the mutilated offspring that arose from a horrible orgy consisting of Atheist, Cynic, Chthe’ilist, Wormed and Gorguts. Oh, and did I mention Will Smith (not that one) of Artificial Brain is on mic duty? Yeah. Now you’re interested.
The problem with a lot of slam is that it lacks any sort of musical landscape - there are no discernable moments that divide songs and keep things feeling diverse and interesting for more than the first ten minutes. Fortunately, much like Wormed, Afterbirth inject some much-needed character into their slam. While every dish consists of the same base ingredients, they all taste different. They achieve this by structuring each of their songs differently. Most slam simply consists of pummelling riffs growing heavier and heavier until you eventually reach the song’s gratifying slam, but Afterbirth write songs that have many twists and turns, and the path to the almighty slam is a twisting and curving one.
Though Afterbirth draw from many different influences, the greatest of them would be Atheist. Beyond the obvious Atheist-worship going on with the cover, The Time Traveler’s Dilemma has many Atheist-like jazz segments, and the bass has a strong (Unquestionable) presence on the album. Though it’s still placed deeper in the mix than I would have liked, the chunky, groovy jazz-influenced basslines are always audible if you listen for them.
Atheist’s slick songwriting clearly influenced Afterbirth as well. Each of the album’s songs are smartly-written, and after a couple listens, you really begin to perceive all the crazy stuff happening in each layer of the music. It’s a testament to Afterbirth’s songwriting abilities that they are able to tie so many layers together into something cohesive and controlled. Each musical layer coalesces with the others in a way that’s logical, slick and tight.
But of course, this is still a slam album. It’s heavy, chunky and seething with brute force. The technicality on display here never once dulls the impact of the simplistic, blunt force trauma of the slams, and it’s impressive that Afterbirth were able to couple the two in a way that feels natural. Neither of these opposing musical techniques ever trips up the other, and they work in tandem to create a riveting exercise in laser-precise brutality.
The Time Traveler’s Dilemma plays like a best-of both brutal and technical death metal, with clear inspiration being drawn from both genres’ heavyweights. Normally, this would mean that Afterbirth are inessential: why listen to a worship act when the real deal is within reach? The answer is simple: The Time Traveler’s Dilemma is a sleek, professional and overall invigorating release that manages to take pieces from two different puzzles and still put them together in a way that paints a deprived, blooD-soaked picture. And it’s definitely not the kind of picture you want your mom catching you looking at past your bedtime.
All told, it’s hardly an original album, but if you’re a fan of any of the bands namedropped in this review, it’ll be worth your time. Whether you’re a fan of slam, or one of techdeath’s leading mathematicians, you’ll find something to like on The Time Traveler’s Dilemma. Now just sit back, relax and BREEEEEEEEEEEEE!
The Time Traveler’s Dilemma is now available via Unique Leader Records.