Spectral – Neural Correlates of Hate (2018) REVIEW

The debut full-length from Romanian metal project Spectral represents the glossily-rendered realization of progressive death metal guitarist Ciprian Martin‘s grand vision of technical death metal reinforced by an appreciation of innovation from Spawn of Possession, Necrophagist, Gorguts and Morbid Angel. Though his taste in death metal informs the sheer extremity of ‘Neural Correlates of Hate’ and his wildly shredding guitar work, the aim is more a ‘companion of influence’ rather than pure tribute. Going back a full decade and listening to Spectral‘s inception, the 2007 EP ‘Autopsy of Hope’, you could hear a strong progressive death metal concept that hadn’t fully formed and it’s programmed drumming and chuggy prog/melodic death riffing weren’t set upon the lightspeed tech-death of this full-length yet. As Martin would moonlight in the brief resurrection of Romanian prog-death band Taine for a few years it seems he picked up additional technical and compositional skills in droves in between.

It appears the conception and staffing of this record picked up around 2015 with the addition of CodeRed vocalist Andrei Calmuc. Perhaps equally foundational is the precision drumming from Romain Goulon as he fills the shoes of Martin‘s dream project, vacated as his previous drummer joined Pestilence, perfectly. Goulon more notably did stints as drummer for touring era Necrophagist, Disavowed‘s second album, and Agressor‘s underrated ‘Deathreat’ album. Additional contributions from current Pestilence lead guitarist Calin Paraschiv and Christian Münzner weave perfectly into the relentless hyper-speed tech death of ‘Neural Correlates of Hate’ that makes ‘Epitaph’ and ‘Cabinet’ seem uncluttered and slow by comparison. As a well-practiced ‘technical’ music fan who thrives on every sort of extremity even I couldn’t handle the sheer flow of guitar ideas presented.

It fills a tall order to pick up a technical death metal album in 2018 and glance over namedrops for Spawn of Possession and Necrophagist. I think the clever neoclassical shred of Necrophagist became a bit played out and reached it’s generic peak well before groups like Archspire wore the ideology to the bone. Yet that sort of shredding has it’s place in tech-death and when used sparingly it doesn’t reek of pretentious guitar exercises. I’d say the great strength of Spawn of Possession‘s discography was that it’s compositions never fully drowned in predictable runs or overworked machine-riffing. Spectral‘s compositions throw some careful study of excess to the wind as the sheer flurry of technique and intensity powers ahead beyond the driven rhythms of ‘Cabinet’. Put simply, the noodling and needling riffs rarely take a moment to breathe and you’re going to need scuba gear for nearly 9 minute tracks like “Ashes to Dust” that offer maybe 30 seconds of floaty shredding to take stock of the onslaught.

There was a point in the early part of this decade where technical death had become repulsive to me as djent and ‘progressive deathcore’ hybridization held captive the larger tech-death space with binary riffing and general lack of taste and it lead to an ingrained greater respect for groups like this. Spectral use brutal death metal drumming as the foundation for their song and riff-writing structure and as a result depend upon the drummer for big-picture variation. Whether conscious or not, and despite its oppressive density, the 45 minutes of ‘Neural Correlates of Hate’ manages the same blasts of intensity throughout. A holdout from brutal death metal that doesn’t allow the listener to sense that the spin is coming to an end. This provides a double-edged sword of an experience as you might find it thrillingly captivating, wholly repetitive, or both after several listens.

Maintaining that same bigger picture, the grand talent displayed across the whole of Spectral‘s debut full-length is active and engaging spectacle in the form of intense technical death metal. The variations are smartly mainlined and delivered with flair that is never pretentiously showy and in this way represent the excess of brutal-technical death variations of the 00’s as well as the prog-death iterations of the 90’s. I think this album is nothing short of masterwork in terms of balancing detailed composition and tastefully frantic death metal rhythms but there is just a lot to take in. For it’s oppressive qualities and abundant shredding I’d more likely offer this as a recommendation for technical death metal fans and prog-death fans geared towards extremity.


Artist Spectral
Type Album
Released March 12, 2018
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Technical Death Metal

Tear their souls apart. 3.75/5.0


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