The early 90s was a great time for death metal, with different regions spawning different takes of an umbrella genre. Yet among the wide variety of death metal that was produced, the American style has always been the least intriguing, with my favourite bands coming instead from the Scandinavia and European regions. Now in 2016, it is nice to hear of bands such as Nucleus that have decided to follow in the path of the Finnish with their debut full length album, Sentient.
While I have already been conditioned to think only of sounds like Morbid Angel and Cannibal Corpse or the tech-death of Suffocation or Dying Fetus when mentioning the death metal of America, it is refreshing to listen to bands like Nucleus. Album opener Sentience does nothing much to hint towards the sound of the band, yet as soon as the first riffs of Dosadi kicks in, one is quickly reminded of the works of Finnish bands.
The crushing heaviness and the tone of the guitars, the fusion of the riffing and the staccato battery of Pat O’Hara is reminiscent of the works of Demilich or Adramelech, with Nucleus often channeling the former with the unconventional, somewhat dissonant riffs of Dave and Dan. This especially so through their often used technique of punctuating their riffs with pinch harmonics, like on Cantos and Swarm. The bass of Ryan is also rather high in the mix, and his playing completely complements the fret work of Dave and Dan, displaying his prowess on the instrument in matching the complexity in the music.
Production-wise, the band has opted for a rather raw, bassy sound on the record. The instruments are mixed nicely, and the riffs of Dave and Dan often take the limelight on the record, something that I would certainly not complain about since it seems that their riffs are probably the main focus on the album anyway. That rather muddy sound that the band has adopted on Sentient also helps in creating that disturbing, uneasy vibe on the album, fitting the overall chaotic songwriting of Nucleus.
Nucleus‘ Sentient is certainly a refreshing take on the genre and style pioneered by Demilich, and while we certainly missed the gargling vocals of Antti Boman on death metal such as this, the band holds their own with Sentient, making this one of my favourite death metal albums of recent times rather than your rehashed Swedish or Floridian death metal.
Favourite picks: Cantos