Six years and a couple hundred riffs later Memphis, Tennessee technical death/thrash metal act Shards of Humanity have arrived upon a suitable omega particle that’d serve as their second full-length album. Influenced by equal parts ‘old school’ progressive death metal from the early 90’s and classic thrash metal, these guys were notable for their admixture of post-‘Human’ Death influenced death metal and semi-technical thrash metal on their debut (‘Fractured Frequencies‘, 2014) yet enough time has passed that expectations are largely amorphous when approaching the return of Shards of Humanity. A quick rip through the first few tracks on ‘Cold Logic’ should be an intense refresher for their ambitious and somewhat unique take on classic death/thrash metal but it is the increasingly divergent corners of the recording that dabble with progressive thrash metal that end up distinguishing ‘Cold Logic’ enough to warrant several more listens.
“Cosmic Shield” opens ‘Cold Logic’ with an appropriately righteous high intensity riff-fest as rabid swipes of pick-scraping dragged across furiously shred-upon guitar strings provides an underground thrash metal feeling circa 1991, where everyone’d either gone death metal or began trying their hand at Coroner riffs; Deeper into the second half of the song some patented Shards of Humanity moves arrive moderately evolved as their riffing resembles a death/thrash appropriated ‘Symbolic’-esque methodology, lifting considerable influence from that album’s title track (or “Secret Face”) as a jumping off point. The incessant love for Chuck Schuldiner‘s work in Death is an important part of Shards of Humanity‘s output but no doubt you’ll hear myriad other influences across the board from mid-80’s speed metal to ‘Rust in Peace’-esque trade-off lead guitar runs on “Martyr’s Gaze” and some pieces that resemble ‘Testimony of the Ancients’-era Pestilence as well as the first Gorguts album. The title track offers a prime example of that late 80’s thrash and mid-90’s death fusion rallying the suggestion of 70’s metal riff territory, referencing “War Pigs”, and marking a new and exciting skill level from the band. ‘Cold Logic’ makes a fine first impression with tightly performed and idiosyncratic progressive death/thrash style on Side A though it doesn’t start to feel like an full extension from the past into their future until they really begin to work further outside the box in the second half.
Side B begins more-or-less killing time with the warbling taps of “Into the Lower Astral” and the eventual revelation of the outlandish free-jazz influenced noodling of “Demonic Crystallized Intelligence” a structured piece that features what sounds like improvised shred solos and rhythmic trade-offs with some Morbid Angel-esque riffs and a full on jazz influenced prog metal freakout near the end. The bold choice to finish the tail end of the record off with an “Angel of Disease” backed jazz-fusion noodle fest feels like it flies off the rails but in an endearing way for my tastes. Taking in the full listen and reflecting upon it, I’d reiterate that the major appeal of this Shards of Humanity record stems from the complete refinement of the listening experience compared to their debut as their general style is further proven in concept here. The most frenetic and free-wheeling moments contrast appreciably with the already over-the-top and impressive death/thrash metal nearby. The placement of those pronounced unhinged moments next to the polished and practiced sub-genre mastery in hand appreciated in my mind over time and began to pull my mind toward knee-jerk comparisons to Chemical Breath and Aspid, bands that might not have been original head-to-toe but did something entirely their own using a blend of established musical lexicon.
Sharp and inventive technical death/thrash metal that purposefully builds upon Shards of Humanity‘s love for 90’s progressive death metal forms and tonality is already an immediate sell for the ‘old school’ death and thrash metal addict within me and in that sense they’ve nailed their intended sound on this second full-length. Without this context of interest the modus is still clearly presented within the brief 34 minute length of ‘Cold Logic’ although the ‘loose’ mania of certain points of experimentation previously mentioned are not likely developed enough for the future-obsessed thrasher looking for their new what next. Instead I’d guide this record toward folks who crossover quite a bit between early Sadus, death/thrash metal and the ‘breakthrough’ moments of early Florida death metal style and continually want more personalize variations therein. High recommendation.
Moderately high recommendation. 3.75/5.0
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