2019 has so far been a pretty excellent capstone on the decade, with notable releases from both fresh faces and classic bands alike. But one thing I’ve noticed is that for the first time in years, death metal has been struggling to keep up with the rest of the pack. More traditional/cleaner styles of metal have been mostly dominating this year thanks to heavyweight knockouts from Traveler, Smoulder, Crypt Sermon, Void King, and others whereas my extreme metal stomping ground of morbidity seems to be rapidly approaching the end of history – where we’ve finally run out of truly new ideas from this latest renaissance. We’ve reached the logical endpoint of the various extremes that bands can reach for, be it speed or brutality or chaos or atmosphere or even simplistic Jungle Rot style groove. We seem to have reached the zenith. And for that reason, Ecliptic Vision is paradoxically kind of refreshing in that they don’t try to one-up anybody but themselves on their self-titled sophomore record.
Hailing from Syracuse, New York, these four dudes produce death metal that plays out in a marginally generic way (in the sense that it’s not hard to point to other bands that sound like this), but their songwriting chops and propensity for catchy hooks keep them from completely fading into the white noise. Their general style can be described as a clean and polished sci-fi based smattering of brutal death metal with an overall feeling of progressivism that never really shines through via weird time signatures or finger-breaking fretboard pyrotechnics and a very sophisticated sense of groove. It’s very nebulous, never reaching any of those extremes I mentioned earlier, because why should they have to? There’s no terra incognita left, so might as well find something you’re good at and stick to it, no? Like this definitely takes a few pages out of the tomes of Suffocation and Dying Fetus, but the technicality and brutality is never overwhelming or pushed to an extreme. Ecliptic Vision is very content to sit in a sort of middle ground where they’re fast and punishing with the dials turned up to like 70% capacity.
Because of this, they have some extra energy to devote to writing memorable hooks, and they do so quite well. “Cosmocosm” and “Dark Flow Remnants” are probably the most immediately catchy songs on display with massive heaps of ear-catching groove that keep the spacey instrumentals grounded. Their love of hooky chugs reminds me of the whole five minutes that The Faceless was good back in the Planetary Duality days, and the sci-fi theme and excessively clean production certainly helps that parallel. Vocally they tend to flip flop between deep, subterranean roars and high Trevor Strnad-esque screeches, which is pretty par for the course nowadays but the simple fact that they aren’t static further helps to keep the songs dynamic and interesting.
It isn’t all great, though. Like I said before, it’s something of a paradox that they don’t really push any boundaries but wind up good and interesting anyway. That caginess when it comes to pushing themselves to extremes is a bit of a bummer because this winds up being merely good instead of something truly special. Their focus on catchy songwriting is certainly a plus, but unlike Abnormality or Unfathomable Ruination (two bands this reminds me of), they lack that undercurrent of self-destructive chaos that makes them feel dangerous. Ecliptic Vision may be skilled, but they’re still following the rules and coloring inside the lines. There are many moments here where I find my foot tapping, but I do wish that tap would careen out of control every once in a while. But I admit that that’s just me kind of wishing this album was something that it’s not, and when taken for what it is on its own merits, Ecliptic Vision is a fun exercise in controlled brutality.
Ecliptic Vision was independently released on July 6th, 2019, and can be listened to and purchased on the band’s Bandcamp page.