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Review : Cosmic Atrophy - The Void Engineers by

Via : "I never expected to see a follow-up to Codex Incubo. In a way, it was fitting that a project that channeled the extraterrestrial weirdness of Demilich and Timeghoul would fade into the shadows just as quickly after releasing their debut. Who can blame them? The world wasn't ready.

But it's been a decade since we last heard from Cosmic Atrophy's non-Euclidean pocket universe. In that intervening time, things have gotten weird back on Earth (and no, I don't just mean the past few years of current events). This project was one of the very first of the weirdo DM revival, and over the past decade it's been eclipsed by new and old names alike - Diskord, Chthe'ilist, Howls of Ebb, Morbus Chron, Exlimitir, etc. - who have pushed the genre into newfound, inchoate realms of surreal horror. In the brief window between discovering this album existed and my first listen, I had one question on my mind: Can this album possibly be as far-out as Codex Incubo?

Yes. Yes, it is. Considerably more so, in fact. Cosmic Atrophy's basic sound hasn't really changed much, but it's been augmented by meatier production that's nowhere near as insubstantial or plastic, more sprawling experimentation, and most importantly Philippe Tougas's presence on lead guitar - maybe the best performance I've ever heard from him, bending timbre and pitch in a way that's deeply uncanny and nauseating (in a good way, somehow). The trippy sound manipulations don't stop there, either - there's plenty of weird effects buried deep in the mix, occasional blasts of distorted electronics in the vein of the new Plague Rider EP, and a few moments almost too baffling to describe. I have to assume Phil is using a synth-axe at some points, which I haven't heard in any other tech death release besides Spheres.

The biggest improvement, however, is in the songwriting itself. Codex Incubo transported the listener into a bizarrely colored tonal space and just sorta... floated around, without the clear resolution or payoff you'd expect from a death metal band. Doomed by the Cancer Domus, due to its length, suffered particularly hard from this aimlessness. It's particularly tragic for a band in the vein of Timeghoul to screw up epic-length tracks, given the style's emphasis on narrative and macrostructure. Boiling in the Hourglass and Occurrence on Mimas are classics because of the memorable stories they tell - as if they condensed a classic sci-fi movie into a 10-minute death metal song. So the lack of a true epic track, combined with the anticlimactic dark ambient outro, always made Codex Incubo feel incomplete, despite its enthralling alien tonalities.

So when I saw that the last 3 tracks of this album were all 7+ minutes, I felt a mixture of delight and trepidation - would these end up being poorly paced flops, or mindblowing epics? Shockingly, they all more than justify their length, and are possibly the highlight of the album (though the electronic weirdness of the title track and Disgorged From Within the X-Zone are also high points). Submerged in Metamorphosis Pools is a jumpy, unpredictable riff-fest, crammed with memorable moments like the mathcore-ish riff at 1:20 and copious synth-axe leads, that converges into an absolutely monstrous headbanger after the halfway point, before closing with a flourish of lead guitar. Aphotic Abnegation, by contrast, is a crushing yet atmospheric death-doom track, as full of looming void and negative space as the previous track was with electric complexity. And Shackled to the Zenith of Uncreation is a fittingly bizarre closing epic: structured as a 3-way conversation between "The Ghost", "The Void" and "The Spider", each signified by a different vocalist. Its story arc progresses through ambient experimentation, some chamber music/horror soundtrack work, and every tempo and intensity of death metal imaginable. I've scarcely heard the ethos and mission of the genre expressed so vividly."

4.5 / 5

Originally written by RNG for

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