SICKENING HORROR – Chaos Revamped (2020)REVIEW

The supreme rule of brutal technical death metal in the early 2000’s had largely exhausted its core wave of enthusiasm by way of overbearing one-upsmanship and the deteriorating virtue of the artform by way of deathcore’s filler-intensive riffcraft. It was a shame that Athens, Greece-based death metal band, who originally featured drumer George Kollias (Nile), didn’t arrive upon their first album (‘When Landscapes Bled Backwards‘, 2007) until the nuanced balance of technicality, melodicism, and dissonance they’d brought so ingeniously was somewhat drained for fandom, at least among the majority share of fairweather death metal fans. Their second album (‘The Dead End Experiment‘, 2009) was a drastic upheaval where Sickening Horror‘s progressive metal-edged take on technical death metal breached ‘modern’ relevance apropos for the time. Here on their fourth full-length the trio lean freshly into the surreal psychic myth of their dissonant, brutal (and) melodic movements in the past while shifting gears towards more traditional progressive death metal for ‘Chaos Revamped’. Tightly wound and pushing beyond the extreme neon green warp of ‘Overflow‘ (2015), there is the sense that they are always looking forward but unafraid to hold tight the keen traditions of technical death music.

Hands down, no contest, ‘Overflow’ was the most underrated death metal record of 2015 and remains completely unsung among the otherwise atypically vocal progressive death metal spheres the world over. Its trance-like use of (true) dissonance, jazz-like progressions, and intensely memorable compositions made for what I’d referred to as ‘lounge tech-death’, which might sound wretched on paper but put on “The Day the Worms Became Kings” and tell me that isn’t the exact right take! That record was both my introduction to Sickening Horror and the main reason I am so excited that they’ve put out a follow-up after a five year wait. ‘Chaos Revamped’ has guitarist/vocalist George Antipatis‘ style all over it, I could pick his riffing out blind due to considerable study of his work during the break between releases, and this should be enough of a sell for folks who were a fan of any Sickening Horror releases despite each being notably different. The main reason I’d champion this one should be somewhat obvious when pushing through the admittedly dense run of riffs that make up the first few songs. Touches of early-to-mid 90’s progressive death that’d still been clinging to technical thrash metal’s textural wrath heavily inform the attack of ‘Chaos Revamped’.

Of course if you’ve kept up with my nonsense year-over-year you might assume where my standards for this sort of thing are headed: (early) Anata, Cynic, and hell I’d even throw in The Chasm when things get really crunchy on a few songs. “Transmutation” feels like it could have been pulled from the immediate post-‘Symbolic’ climate in the late 90’s where a few progressive death metal bands pushed their sound (see: Carcariass) but with such a deep obsession with ‘Overflow’ in my mind I see this sort of song as the logical push beyond the restrained, contained mid-paced faculties of the previous record. It really isn’t that far from what Sickening Horror were doing on ‘The Dead End Experiment’ only applying more classic 90’s death metal sensibilities to precision, polish and more freely extant song structures. “Cubical Void” is where the tech-death/thrash of the late 80’s/early 90’s Canadian reality starts to ping in my mind, and of course this all begins to push towards the most apt comparison, early Martyr. The only caveat being that Sickening Horror are melodic in the way that a classic progressive death metal mind would be, Cynic-isms that don’t need to strain unto desperation to make a strong musical statement. If you’re not sure what that’d entail, jump to the title track that kicks off the second half and pay close attention to the rhythm guitar movements.

Pick any song, really, and I’ll have riff or reference ready-loaded to praise as the thrash influenced edge of Antipatis‘ guitar work is endless entertainment for my own taste, not just for the detailed phrasal riff runs but for the style deployed. “Dawn of the Sick” is another example of a pure thrash metal soul slicing through the stuffiness of prog-death and energizing it towards some inventive time changes and an oddly uplifting exit — The trade off is a bit less brutality for the sake of technical extreme metal intricacy and some effective melodic guitar ideas, think somewhere in between. So, ‘Overflows’ movements with some of the fiery blasts of earlier albums and now with some thrash metal appreciation throughout? Yes. Of course I’d recommend ‘Chaos Revamped’ — Sure, the album art is unpleasant, looking a bit like Alf being drowned in oil, but it didn’t bother me in the slightest after spinning through the full album 3-4 times. Sickening Horror‘s fourth album might not top ‘Overflows’ for me but it comes close, a high recommendation overall.

High recommendation.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
ARTIST:Sickening Horror
TITLE:Chaos Revamped
LABEL(S):Pathologically Explicit Recordings
RELEASE DATE:June 29th, 2020
BUY/LISTEN/STREAM:Bandcamp [All formats]
GENRES:Technical Death Metal

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