By way of cataclysmic glacial floods through eruption-channeled ravines the Willamette Meteorite, a true alien on Earth, broke free from its ancient tomb of ice and lay thawed at the epicenter of where the Chinookan people would eventually settle. ‘Discovered’ a few decades after the slaughter and dissolution of the Clackamas tribe in 1902, the meteorite was later noted as ‘treasured’ and sacred to the then obliterated indigenous people within the northern Willamette valley in Oregon. A true ancient alien with uncanny allure this acid-etched coralesque outer space rock is a beautiful bit of damning evidence for global annihilation by way of sheer battery from beyond. A burning avalanche of countless sun-inflamed stones hurled great pock-marks of doom onto Earths face, obliterating roughly three fourths of all life on the planet sixty-six million years ago, this meteorite was most certainly among those destroyers. Spent ammunition entombed by infinite age begets curious composition where uncommon amounts of nickel are interspersed with gallium and iridium, two rare transition metals that do not occur naturally on earth. Athens, Greece progressive death metal band Cerebrum aim similarly grand, otherworldly apocalyptic weaponry upon the listener with this third full-length; ‘Iridium’ appears transitive of both ‘old school’ technical death metal patterning and new, freshly ranting paths.
Though the first Cerebrum full-length was generally bland and only notable for session drum work from George Kollias (Contrarian, Nile) their second album ‘Cosmic Enigma’ (2013) would benefit from the inclusion of Dead Congregation bassist George Skalkos and a greater focus on varietal technicality. Their style was more or less in line with the post-millennium brutal/technical death metal coming from Greece at the time but few nearby projects would reach for progressive death metal sounds in that same vein outside of Sickening Horror‘s ‘Overflow’. There were some mild technical thrash metal influences (see: Pestilence, Atheist, Sadus) present by proxy of their major interest in ‘old school’ technical death metal previous but, those elements become slightly more pronounced on ‘Iridium’ by virtue of spiraling riff-focused compositions that are informed almost purely by their progressions rather than performative complexity. The ‘risk’ in creating such focus upon the guitar and bass interplay for the entirety of the album comes with finding creative enough rhythms to carry the full listen. The ratio of compelling riffs to downtime on ‘Iridium’ is above average and Cerebrum generally nailed the feeling of ’87-’96 era spawned progressive death metal (per a revival circa 2005) without any great differentiating factors that set those old bands apart.
In an today’s sea of plastic atmospherics and wasteful psuedo-doom adjacency Cerebrum choose to limit compositions below the five minute mark and this offers brilliant avoidance of the exhaustion often felt in modern progressive death metal projects where excess is expected. The full scope of ‘Iridium’ lands on a planet between the forceful classicism of later Anata, the rhythmic sensibilities of Quo Vadis (Canada) with the aforementioned technical death/thrash influences similar to those of later Carcariass. Guitarists Michalis Papadopoulos and Jim Touras focus their time between intricacy and movement without relying on a great deal of extraneous lead work or abrupt changes of pace; ‘Iridium’ shifts subtly in effective ways giving the listening experience an understated and slow-growing progressive appeal. This should feel familiar to ‘Spheres’ influenced records post-’93 like Chemical Breath‘s ‘Values’ that bridged the cosmic mixture of progressive death metal and technical thrash at the time. Cerebrum are not stuck in, or recreating that period of death metal but they have made an album that fans of formative prog-death will immediately appreciate.
‘Iridium’ is incredibly focused and the rhythms are almost playful in their moderate aggression, this will read as dry and self-same to the impatient and brutal spectrum of death metal fandom but I think the ‘Sothis’-era Vader meets ‘Testimony of the Ancients’vocals of Touras and relatively tight production sound could easily win over the average Sickening Horror or Sectu fan. I am both and enjoyed the many, many spins of this album over the last couple of months. From a performative perspective ‘Iridium’ is not a show-stopper and offers a thinking-man’s experience rather than a flashy storm of trickery. From my experience that is the best approach to progressive metal in general and it pays off for Cerebrum, and my own tastes. The major utility of an album like this lies in its ability to intensify mental focus, the movements of ‘Iridium’ offer catalyst to sustain the mind’s pace while in deep thought or the midst of an involved task. The experience is capable of a casual listen but this is music of activity and motion more than it is meditatively immersive. I can easily recommend the full listen and a quick look back at ‘Cosmic Enigma’ as well. For preview I’d recommend the two songs I found most memorable “A Face Unknown” for its resemblance to ‘Overflow’ in general and “Absorbed in Greed”, which offered a great intense pocket of riffs towards the end of the album.
Into fatal paralysis. 3.75/5.0
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