Apperception and generalized reactivity is all we’ve got to go on in approach of ‘Feel‘, the debut full-length album from Los Angeles, California-based death metal duo Apparition whom serve none of the usual hifalutin, irradiated context we find in approach of most modern death metal bands aiming to stand out nowadays. No world building, no forced slogans, and none of the requisite self-conscious cronyism invades the purely pensive tunneling of these fellowes as they relay a complete and sharply edged study of eerily atmospheric yet entirely present death metal gloom. At this point they’ve smartly made it all about the music thus we’ll have little rumination or research to do in approach. Though it would be fair to see this debut as a cleanly manufactured babe propped up and walking too soon, the warm-toned cut and conjuration of their world makes its own argument as a realm of silken unveiling, a creeping ~35 minute wave of light friction marked by its hair-raising morbid realism and the sickly pale coloration of existential dread. Will that be enough to hold the ear of the general population? Not necessarily, this record is yet tailormade for the discerning death metal fan and impending-doom stricken connoisseur who’d demand an unending war between otherwordly fog and diabolic riffs above all else.

Skilled musicians, contemporary production, and just enough ancient-souled death gloom to sustain old heads is the gist of the ‘Feel‘ experience. Though their approach is occasionally clinical above a mid-paced kick we are in the realm of organic ‘new old school’ death metal from folks who are perhaps not lifers for the style. This makes for an album that bears a minimum tunnel vision for the classicism of lineage-aware death metal bands, the major symptom that manifests as a result is an avoidance of self-conscious or overtly referential tones… at least until they need a quick riff to slap onto a rough edge here and there. Drummer/vocalist Andrew Morgan and guitarist/bassist Miles McIntosh have a keen ear for Finnish death metal’s doomed underwater skronk and eerie leads which they’ve crunched up to a high modern standard a la ‘Primordial Malignity’ (see: “Drowning In The Stream Of Consciousness”) with a crisp, almost too cleanly presented mud-tuned guitar tone allowing for frequent rolls into the dreary guitar solo-starved void we’ve seen more of post-‘Eroded Corridors of Unbeing’. For my own taste that ends up being a very good thing, not too far from recent stuff from Decrepisy, Ossuarium and I suppose Vastum at face value. Fans of the comparatively raw and distant production values of last year’s introductory 7″ EP ‘Granular Transformation‘ (2020), which featured similar songwriting, might find this debut full-length a bit slicked-back and suave by comparison but there’ll be no griping over the clarity afforded here on my part.

Whereas average greenhorn death metal bands throughout time have filled in the gaps of their riffcraft, songcraft, and rudimentary structure with stylized sound design Apparition don’t afford themselves any sort of cushion when opting for the glossy, clean and resonance heavy render from Taylor Young/The Pit and mastering from Nick Townsend. This level of polish does a fine job of highlighting Apparition‘s generally on point tempo map and strong rhythmic warping of classic tonality but also makes a few of the performative tricks they are prone to indulge in all the more glaring. In terms of delivering a ‘modern’ death metal sensibility the “interrupting modern hardcore riff” followed directly by a forgettable yet still twisted breakdown we most often associate with punchy cavebro-core death metal guitar work is occasionally inserted into ‘Feel’ as a quick-turn away from pure old school death metal’s droning and predictable intent. If we skate back in time for tonal precedence, the disordered runs and punched-up jogging verses on songs like “Perpetually Altered” call for some referential treatment of obvious names from Midwest death metal (Morgue, Master) as well as Florida death metal originals (Death, Obituary) but these are very distant ancestral forms at this point. For the classics-obsessed brain these most often read as distractive punctuation, references meant to tie off pieces which don’t have a melody to complete or any particularly ornate structure applied to their attack.

The key to biting into a record like ‘Feel’ with some satisfaction is to simply tabula rasa the brain with your favorite poison and hang onto Apparition‘s pear-shaped grooves and Eldritch-violent atmosphere as a wave, crashing and forming into gnarled and satisfyingly round shapes. For my own taste the song to slap the analytical mindset out the ear was “Nonlocality“. Yep, you could argue there is a fistful of early Tomb Mold-esque swagger in the water there but I figure that’d be a damned plus for most listeners who’ll pick up this record by sight thanks to Abomination Hammer‘s decaying Rantanen-esque insectoid form and the liquid de-escalation into keyboard-kissed death/doom metal of the song speaks for itself as something beyond expectation. “Entanglement” provides the most blurred and perhaps original moment on the full listen with a cold and tensile psychedelic death build into the strongest barrage of riffs ‘Feel’ has to offer before giving way to slow-ground pick scraping, bleak spiraling noise, and horror-inducing amp/effect cycling. For my own taste this song was the peak statement and the meat of the argument for Apparition‘s notability beyond the status quo.

‘Feel’ is, generally speaking, a normative and accessible death metal record which largely iterates upon the major thrills suburban upper middle class death metal had to offer in the late 2010’s by way of a bit more spooky gloom than usual. It is a fantastic album to dig into and the immersion on offer is strong enough but I wouldn’t approach this debut as anything more than a starting point for folks who’ve given themselves a wide berth for future exploration. A steadfast focus upon riffs, slight aberrations of style and sharp sound design make for a heavily repeatable and somewhat memorable listening experience which conjures very few complaints in a casual headspace. There is yet some considerable longevity available here and as such, a moderately high recommendation is warranted.

Moderately high recommendation. (77/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Profound Lore Records
RELEASE DATE:October 22nd, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Death Metal,
Death/Doom Metal

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