Apogean - Cyberstrictive

Artist: Apogean

Album Title: Cyberstrictive

Label: The Artisan Era

Date of Release: 8 March 2024

If you’d said to me even as recently as two years ago, that technical death metal would become one of my absolute favourite genres of heavy metal, I’d have likely laughed in your face. ‘Classic’ progressive metal? Yes. Raw, groovy, death metal? Quite possibly. But a blend of the two, where you get your face melted alongside your brain? No that seemed like it could have been a bit of a stretch. As it has turned out, though, I have found myself drawn more and more to this genre of music, willingly listening to as much of it as possible. Of course, as with any style of music, there are good and bad examples out there. But, when done well, there’s something about it that I have grown to really love.

The latest band to test out my new-found love is Toronto-based Apogean with their debut full-length studio release, ‘Cyberstrictive’. Not only was I intrigued by the album’s rather dystopian but striking artwork, I was also seduced by the fact that the album is being released by The Artisan Era, a label with a very decent track record of late. After further research, it should be noted that the cover art seeks to link in strongly to the lyrical themes of the album, namely drawing on inspiration from George Orwell’s ‘1984’ or ‘Farenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury, exploring the impact of technology on us as humans, focusing mainly on the darker, more sinister aspects of the subject.

Comprised of vocalist Mac Smith (Decrepit Birth – live), guitarists Dexter Forbes and Gabriel Silva Castro, drummer Jacob Wagner, and bassist Robert Tam, I was interested to read that the quintet boast some impressive CV material, including having original compositions featured on ESPN, as well as video game collaborations and suchlike. This is all very well but the proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say. Enter ‘Cyberstrictive’.

As debut albums go, this is a pretty impressive one, it has to be said. There is a school of thought to say that the material within the ten tracks will not push too many boundaries, as you get that familiar blend of technicality and brutality that seeks to pull in aspects of death metal, black metal, prog, and deathcore into a cohesive listening experience. By and large, Apogean succeed, too, producing a record that keeps my attention for the most part and, in the process, lay down some really interesting compositions.

What I particularly like about ‘Cyberstrictive’ is the way that the songs themselves are not littered with obvious melody and yet there is something about the music that draws me back. Normally, I’d bemoan a lack of distinct catchiness or melodic interplay but somehow, these Canadians have captured my attention regardless. I have to put that down to the deceptive strength of the songwriting because badly constructed compositions wouldn’t have this impact on me. So, kudos to the band for that, especially so early on in their career. Things can only get even better on that score, so I’m definitely interested in what comes next.

Apogean - Cyberstrictive

But that’s for another day, as we have ‘Cyberstrictive’ to dive into in a little more detail first. And it is rather tricky to know where to begin to be honest, because each track brings with it something that could easily be talked about within the confines of this review. However, after some thought, I’m going to kick things off with ‘Thousand-Yard Glare’, because this track really articulates the way in which Apogean are able to deliver some properly heavy music, with a real groove and power, whilst almost effortlessly pulling in some impressive technicality along the way. The breaks in the tumult are laced with strange electronic sound effects and odd time signatures but, for the most part, we are privy to some weighty death metal that gets the head nodding, a mix of deep growls and higher-pitched rasps, and seriously groovy and intense breakdowns that see a slowing of the material except for the drumming, which maintains an impressive pace as all around it applies the breaks, grinding to a near halt. It’s not normally ‘my thing’, but it works so well within this song.

I’m also a fan of the brutally excellent ‘Distance (Of Walls And Wails)’ where the dystopian nature of the lyrical content leaches into the music with some strange, jarring sound effects and more head-scratching time signatures that I couldn’t even begin to explain with my pathetically minimal musical talent. I hear a touch of Cattle Decapitation within the song, too, which is never a bad thing in my opinion, although we’re far from copycat territory as the track lurches and stumbles to its conclusion.

For me, though, the best bits of the album occur when ‘Cyberstrictive’ fully embraces their progressive leanings. ‘Within The Bounds Of A Simile’ is a perfect example and may just be my favourite track on the album. It is still heavy as hell, with no let-up in the extreme metal attack, but over a short three minutes, it covers so much ground, from all-out death metal attack to prog metal complete with swathes of synths, to quieter moments that create a sense of dark, oppressive atmosphere and a sense of unease. But you also get some of the most pronounced melodies on the record, too. Alongside the equally intriguing ‘Hueman (The Pleasure Of Burn)’ with its more cinematic and opulent intro, this is where Apogean shine the brightest in my opinion.

The technical progressive death metal sphere is a competitive one, with an ever-growing pool of impressive talent to choose from. Whether or not Apogean sink or swim, only time will tell. However, based purely on the evidence presented across ‘Cyberstrictive’, these Canadian newcomers have given themselves as good a chance as possible, and I am really intrigued to see what comes next, because there’s talent in abundance here.

The Score of Much Metal: 82%



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