ORIGIN – Chaosmos (2022)REVIEW

An infinity too outsized, too rapidly morphed in constant god-sized and irrational motion to perceive with any real sense should consume you to the point of irretrievable dread, far more than any sort of everyday numbing droll. — Your suffering, follies, incompetence, torpor and various other futilities which serve to define your very existence all ring insignificant into the mouth of the void. The goring absurdity of mankind only shines brighter in the horrified eyes of our most sentient when faced with environmental cataclysm, the bold-faced madness of the bourgeoisie, and the murderous rampages that result from containment and economic collapse… all absolute miniscule contributions to the greater universe that we must accept as anything but microcosmic expression. From all angles, and in spite of the economic and societal compression of today, we are served darkest pit of nihil from which technical brutal death metal quartet Origin spring forth on this their eighth full-length album. ‘Chaosmos‘ is blazing reminder of they who’d amplified the extremity of brutal tech-death at its most crucially formed apex and have long served to master it with their most steadily wisened hand.

Origin technically formed circa 1997 in Topeka, Kansas by way of guitarist/co-vocalist Jeremy Turner (Unmerciful) and guitarist, co-vocalist and main songwriter Paul Ryan (Mæntra) who’d spent much of the 90’s working on death metal incarnations under various names (Necrotomy, Thee Abomination) which you’ll note were eventually absorbed into Origin canon with ‘Abiogenesis – A Coming Into Existence‘ (2019). Those early works were eventually compiled with the band’s still well-loved debut EP ‘A Coming Into Existence‘, the first of several records to feature a sort of revolving door of members with Ryan being the main protagonist. That EP had been the major blueprint for their technical approach to brutal death metal going forward but not their major breakthrough take upon style, earning a pretty big deal with Relapse for four records wherein they’d basically earned their ‘legacy’ credibility by way of ante-upping records that’d allowed them (through various line-up changes) to stick on just about every big extreme metal live bill in North America for the next decade. If you’d been into death metal circa 1999-2005 no doubt you’d heard their most pure brutal death metal debut (‘Origin‘, 2000) and probably owned a copy of the widespread phenomenon that was ‘Informis, Infinitas, Inhumanitas‘ (2002) at the time, an album that’d serve as the major point of induction into the big leagues for the band as they further defined their style, a form of death metal able to hang with the Dying Fetus/Misery Index level of boss grind intensity while still sidling the threatening realm of brutal above-ground death metal at the time.

As we approached the mid-decade point of exhaustion with brutality, bands like Nile, Hate Eternal, Behemoth and to some degree Cryptopsy had reaped the biggest rewards of the work they’d put into the mid-to-late 90’s clobber-heavy uptick, but as we reached beyond the fading glow of the new millennium of brutality it’d be Deeds of Flesh and Origin who’d end up both inspiring and directly influencing the next generation(s) of brutal and technical death metal to the most obvious, widespread degree and still to this day even. You could certainly pick up a lot of ‘Souls to Deny‘-recharged gigs a couple decades ago, countless Disgorge and/or Gorgasm-cloneage crews putting the cleaver to the meat of death metal’s gore-slapping side too, but the technique which guitarist Ryan and drummer John Longstreth (Hate Eternal, ex-Angelcorpse) used to push the limits of brutality in the first half of the 2000’s still persists as the spine of most tech death (even some deathcore) you’ll pick up nowadays, inspiring endless conversations on triggered drums and certainly encouraging more than one vocalist to step up to the mic for added mania. There were limits to push and these the were guys to do it while they still had the public’s attention. The peak of this crazed, over the top brutality on their part was arguably the rush of ‘Echoes of Decimation‘ (2005) and for many fans this was the record that’d helped a lot of listeners make up their mind about Origin one way or another, some loving the ultra-brutal tech street-sweeper thrust of their pushing it and others reverting towards a more organic style of death metal. At that point ‘Antithesis‘ (2008) was the band’s choice to double down, though it was a point of mastery for their work as a fan I felt like the only place to go from there was tech-gimmickry and trendiness and I’d fallen off beyond picking up the occasional tour through the northwest.

Of course when Origin had finally found their steadiest point of line-up, achieved a prime sense of ‘self’, and founded a certain directive of steady refinement for their entity rather than competitive flair access to music and generational awareness had changed entirely. Despite their signing to big-deal label Nuclear Blast their next record (‘Entity‘, 2011) was more-or-less buried by a league of forward-thinking extremity at the time and ‘Omnipresent‘ (2014) and ‘Unparalleled Universe‘ (2017) seemed to reinforce their tech-death signature more than peck at the boundaries of modern death metal extremity more than their already high standard had provided. Don’t get me wrong here, I am not of the hipster mindset that a band has morph wildly with each release, but this was clearly a period of stability of intent for Origin wherein they’d reinforced their own ideals and identity rather than kept up with the trends of the last decade (no deathcore, no rap-shred, slam etc.) and this’d been when I personally became more of a fan seeing this develop over time and the major reason why I went into ‘Chaosmos‘ looking forward to whatever came next without expecting much more than a top tier, fairly straight-up brutal tech-death experience.

In this sense I’ve gotten what’d been expected from ‘Chaosmos‘ in that it isn’t a musical breakthrough so much as a logical progression towards groovier rhythms, catchier pieces, and overall more variety with a tightened hand providing a succinct and sometimes surprisingly accessible burst of energy from the long active group. I am not one to view such a large discography as one comptroller’s work, especially considering the various co-writers on the most popular Origin records, but we can attribute more of their work on these last 4-5 records directly to Ryan and his crew in terms of vision and how it all comes together as a production. With this in mind we’re getting the natural evolution beyond ‘Entity‘ (see: “Cullscape”) in stages beyond with the vocal/lyrical directive of Jason Keyser (Crator, ex-Skinless) indicative of a version of Origin which is conscious of its past entity but built from a dynamic which has been their own grind post-2010.

In most every case ‘Chaosmos‘ themes assert humanity as both villain and victim of their own natural demise (“Cullscape”, “Decolonizer”), from the delusions of the world’s richest men to take rides into space and dream of populating dead planets instead of easing our own on “Ecophagy” to some exploration of rampant artificial intelligence (“Cogito, Tamen Non Sum”) the ultimate apex of the conversation had is not only that the end is coming, that we must accept that death is inevitable, but that it will be painful with much worse ebbing on the horizon. The peak of this discourse is metaphysically satisfying as Origin‘s nearly ~12 minute finale explores the loss of free energy in the universe (the ‘heat death’ hypothesis) within closer “Heat Death”, a piece ensuring all was for naught regardless. In minimizing the arrogant ambitions of humanity’s worst opportunists and zooming all the way out to the absolute terminus of the universe these themes quash a lot of the perfunctory amusia experienced in everyday life, more of a realist’s doomed tirade than a message of hope for idiots in need of placation, I’d appreciated how this’d all played out to the tune of a very active, brutal yet more-often-than-not inventive record from these folks.

Despite being best known for being a half hour machine gun factory for the last two decades most of Origin‘s records beyond the fourth have stretched into memorable, often compacted and relatively uncomplicated statements which rely on signature finesse for flash rather than convoluted fragmentation. This means that most of ‘Chaosmos‘ excels for the same reason a peak (early 2000’s) Krisiun song might’ve, a readable main riff with a cyclic shape brutally rigged-up and wrestled out in a few different ways in under five minutes. Though opener “Ecophagy” is a simple yet effective example to start I’d rather point to the title track (“Chaosmos“) as a piece which capitalizes upon the full spectrum of what’d influenced the band to start in this regard, as in the USDM classics of the 90’s, and also the modern tech-death they’d either come up with or influenced, throwing in a couple of chug breaks that doofin’ slam fans should appreciate to some minor degree. The riffs themselves are simple in motion, easily read yet difficult to master in movement and this is ultimately what has me left me with the aftertaste of a record that is both masterfully technical yet accessible in a non-embarrassing way (see: Archspire).

What matters most in my book are the songs I want to see live, though. Seeing Origin live is a rhythm section experience from my point of view wherein Longstreth is up there with Mike Hamilton in terms of death metal drummers you absolutely show up for anytime they’re in town no matter what the gig is because they’ve always been consistent. So, from my point of view “Panoptical” is at the top of the list for a live set even if it isn’t exactly a single compared to “Chaosmos” or the quick hook of “Ecophagy”, and primarily because it demands the highest point of sync from Longstreth and bassist Mike Flores (Troglodyte) with its roll and blast-heavy socked out rhythmic rushes. The thrashing, almost punkish groove-death roll of “Decolonizer” is interesting for similar reasons as it’d felt like something somewhat new for Origin‘s gig but fitting for the shift into the second half of the running order. “Cogito, Tamen Non Sum” features some similarly appreciable groove and stood out to me on earlier listens though as I became more familiar with the full listen “Nostalgia For Oblivion” and “Panoptical” became the songs that’d hit me as either something newly dynamic for their gig or sticking to their guns in a less rigid way.

Anyhow, I’ve rambled on long enough, and mostly for the sake of making the argument that Origin put a lot more into this record than I’d expected, probably a lot more than they had to, and it made for the rare case of a modern tech-death album that was a joy to sit with on a fairly regular basis. I dunno if they’re standing out in any truly outrageous way with their sound these days (see: Defeated Sanity) but their signature brutality and command of the riff ensured I wasn’t bored for a split second of my time with ‘Chaosmos‘. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (84/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Agonia Records,
Nuclear Blast
RELEASE DATE:June 3rd, 2022


Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:

Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.