REPLICANT – Malignant Reality (2021)REVIEW

Scene and setting are key when it comes time to contextualize this otherwise muscularly angled second full-length album from New Brunswick, New Jersey-based technical death metal trio Replicant. An exaggerated reactivity to post-industrial reality, we are several layers deep into late 90’s heavy music harmonic dementia, metallic hardcore’s spastic gruffness and the dystopic futurism of the early 2000’s as ‘Malignant Reality‘ presents the unfiltered ugliness of their surroundings — For the sake of what their reality is rather than nostalgia for what it might’ve been. Rusted and vandalized, the iron bones of a once-thriving industry-fed purpose weighs upon their distinctly modern and oft dissonant craft but, never to the point of total collapse.

Formed in 2014 between members/ex-members of Dystrophy, Windfaerer, and various metalcore/deathcore and death metal projects the signature of this band seems to have long been comprised of elements we’d generally find on Gorguts ‘From Wisdom to Hate’ album and perhaps Oppressor‘s third album ‘Elements of Corrosion’, including influences from late 90’s groove metal, dissonant hardcore, and the general apologia the avant-garde death metal underground provided beyond ‘Obscura’ before it was well-remembered in hindsight (Negativa was the catalyst for this, in my opinion). From the first few moments of their debut EP ‘Worthless Desires‘ (2016) this influence and intent is more-or-less vitally set within Replicant‘s sound having blown many minds in 2018 with their accomplished and highly technical debut full-length ‘Negative Life‘. Though I’d stumbled through my review of it back in the day the tone was set for the band’s greater appeal as they offer a modern death metal sound that is yet rooted in a few different generational sounds, allowing listeners stuck in the 90’s just as many nods as those who’ve been willing to follow the sub-genre’s evolution beyond. The catch for old-timers? These guys aren’t afraid of metalcore/deathcore influence or tonality, and this seemed to be signaled loudest on their ‘Hypochondria of the Machine‘ (2019) EP. For this reason we’re better off likening Replicant‘s own sound closer to the realm of Ingurgitating Oblivion or the high quality death metal projects we’ve come to expect from labels like Translation Loss of late, high-fidelity and modern works that aren’t ignorant of the origin of the species.

The main reason I’d write about this otherwise direct follow-up to ‘Negative Life’ lies in the not-so subtle coloration offered throughout the release, much of which is eagerly revealed within album opener “Caverns of Insipid Revelation” as we trek from theremin squealing entrance toward a post-groove metallic ‘The More Things Change…’-era of harmonic scree and scrape death metal, this alone should justify a thread of the late 90’s/early 2000’s heavy music paradigm shift which runs deep throughout this album, conscious or not. This is a vitally detailed song, providing every trick Replicant have to offer this time around, from ethereal post-metal lilts to nuclear drops into breakdowns this is perhaps the most concise summation of the post-BTBAM generation’s grooved-out and angular contributions to technical death metal (by attrition) these last two decades. That isn’t to suggest that these guys have such a bleak “no chill, ever” attitude this time around but you are going to have to soak in the ‘-core’ which Replicant leads with as the album starts.

The unaccompanied throat-scarring break into shouts on “Death Curse” was the first moment to more-or-less wake me up beyond the stunning showing of the opener, and from that point ‘Malignant Reality’ likewise wakes up in terms of generating interest beyond the expected lumbering grooves provided. The best showcase of this early-2000’s Gorguts spawned idealism inarguably starts with “Coerced to Be” and, later on in the tracklist, doubles down on the inspired debut single “Ektoskull“, each of which likewise have some decentralized semblance of Demilich‘s signature groove inserted into their greater function. Besides the cumulative revelation of album closer “The Ubiquity of Time”, which you should discover on your own, the breakthrough take for my own taste here is “Rabid Future”; The last thing I want to do to a modern death metal band is liken them to ‘Issues’-era Korn but if the bassline fits… Well, the larger point is that despite how modern Replicant‘s sound is the bones of their work remains rooted in pathways that will manifest as nostalgic for a variety of certain age groups. At face value, we are served groovy tech-death with a fearless and chunk-heavy (but never simian) approach to rhythm — The intrepid listener could divine much of their own meaning from the guts here but the full listen manages to be its own thing, even moreso than ‘Negative Life’. For my own taste there are parts that drag, others that uplift, and little of it lives up to the bookend statements that open and close the album. It isn’t a perfect death metal album but perhaps enough of an outlier to remain memorable for some time to come. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (75/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Malignant Reality
LABEL(S):Transcending Obscurity Records
RELEASE DATE:September 10th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Technical Death Metal

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