Having struck into existence as a stoner kid shredding out classic tech-thrash riffs alongside a drum machine a decade ago, Bay Area progressive death/thrashers Hemotoxin appear all the more remarkably driven when gathering their discography into one great big listening session. As much as I’d like to align the youthful ambition of vocalist/guitarist Michael Chavez with a clear line of influences appropriate for the start of the last decade (Vektor, Revocation) really tucking into each of Hemotoxin‘s full-lengths reveals as much respect for the classics of technical thrash and early 90’s progressive death metal mutations. The deeper entrenched into a never-ending stream of heavy metal consciousness I am the more I respect artists who have history in their muscle memory and futuristic forms in the whites of their eyes — The third full-length from Chavez and crew, ‘Restructure the Molded Mind’ manages this balance with some remarkable surety.
I know exactly how most thrash purists and death-heads will react to that pointy Revocation lookin’ logo and blissfully psychedelic Mark Cooper artwork and sure, I wasn’t being hyperbolic in terms of the new-meets-old sensibility of these guys definitely including ‘new’ forms: This is not an old place of worship they’re creating. You could yank any random track off any of Hemotoxin‘s three records and get strong hints of 90’s Death, Sadus, and their evolutionary kin beyond but not without a slightly metalcore-esque 90’s thrash stiffness, a caustic and ‘soulless’ chunking feel that characterizes similar approaches, such as Madrost‘s ‘The Essence of Time Matches no Flesh‘. To be clear I’m not detractor of that stuff in general, though I don’t think ‘old school’ technical thrash metal often acts in harmonious convergence with modern death metal and/or chunkier ‘metalcore’ influences. Where I’m wrong comes with the equalizer of intelligent application of technique. As much as I’d like to go on about the waves Hemotoxin might’ve picked up while exploring the deeper death/thrash underground, such as Chemical Breath‘s ‘Values‘ or the mechanically precise percussive swings of Obliveon‘s second album, ‘Nemesis‘, these fellows are equally in tune with modern performative complexity and the ridiculously high standards of technical metal today. The caveat, and it is a very important one, is that Hemotoxin approach it all with reverence and their own vital ‘soul’ or, at least an understanding that communication with the listener requires a less robotic hand and purposefully chosen notes.
Alright I’ll meet you halfway, you bring ‘Chaos of Forms’ and I’ll bring ‘Human’ and eureka, the alchemy inherent is basically what Martyr were doing on ‘Warp Zone’ two decades ago. How this relates to ‘Restructure the Molded Mind’ lies in the overall progression of the tracklist where the hard-barking, stiff-necked (Ripping Corpse-esque) lunging of “Nihilistic Principle” provides a taut and unreasonable station for the mind. Structures appear impermeable and machine-like but the tides soon soften their grit into arena-sized thrash riffs (“Legions of Alienation”) and the brutal apex of Side A on “Unreality” where some clear nods to the earliest waves of proper prog-death begin to crack the hard exterior of the performances. “Unreality” notably features some of the heaviest socked-out drum work on the record, it’d ultimately be the song that convinced me to stick around just as Hemotoxin truly begin to loosen up. The floodgates are open on “Execution” and there I can slip comfortably into those aforementioned early 90’s prog-death/thrash references. The intensity of the record yet endures but the fretless bass notably wobbles in amidst a stunning internal transformation spanning the next few songs. It isn’t as if they’ve dropped the tension that’d introduced the album but Side B is mind-boggling in its wrenching guitar rhythms and inspired bass guitar work, no track is more exemplar of this evolved bout than “Corrupted Flesh”.
…And then it is just about over. At just under 30 minutes long ‘Restructure the Molded Mind’ can’t afford to waste even a few minutes on mosh riffs or any wild experimentation because an inch of recklessness would break the flow of its brevity. There is no black mark upon the record for my own taste, each piece relates to its surroundings by way of a central theme, the mind freed from illusion, implying the true horrors of complacency and ignorance. All of this speaks to me as a listener, a die-hard technical/progressive thrash fan and lover of classic prog-death (even the terrible derivative shit) but I’d quickly realize what a band like Hemotoxin represents to the new guard is much more important than my own nostalgia, they’ve found a damned brutal angle upon their sound that can hang with the freakish inhumanity of tech death of today and still communicate the deepest roots of the sub-genres you could lump their sound into. Whether or not that is enough for ‘Restructure the Molded Mind’ to end up in your record collection should be an easy choice but it will only demand to be listened to if you admire the ‘in the moment’ pocket of the riffs as the songwriting is only memorable in the sense that a record like ‘A Vision of Misery’ might be, where the spectacle and unique sound is thrilling, life-affirming in its cosmic weave but the actual hooks are entirely brutish or relegated to turn-on-a-dime moments that are meant to be surprising. I’ve gotten plenty of mileage out of lesser records and few are a brief and brutal as Hemotoxin‘s latest.
The value I perceive today comes from a mix of my own nostalgia and ‘fully present’ admiration of the performative flair displayed on record, the substance of their words and highly compressed songwriting will unfold further over time. That said, in my mind I’d naturally negated the previous two albums once spinning this one well into the tenth full listen; I’d gotten so caught up in the details and riff-packed intensity of ‘Restructure the Molded Mind’ that I’d forget to take a breath and contrast the experience with ‘Biological Enslavement‘ (2016) and frankly the only path from then until now is plain improvement, advancing the quality of their craft without shifting focus away from the core idea of what Hemotoxin does. I respect any album that can prove my flippant first impression of its contents entirely wrong within a few listens in fact, I live for those moments and appreciated ‘Restructure the Molded Mind’ unveiling itself in meaningful order. Highly recommended, and even more enthusiastically rec’d for anyone who’d forever align with the Schuldiner-esque prog-death continuum.
High recommendation. 4.0/5.0
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