DEFORMATORY – Harbinger (2022)REVIEW

A highly intelligent villainy possesses every moment and movement made by Ottawa, Ontario-based technical death metal duo Deformatory, not only on this latest mLP but throughout their twelve year reign as one of the more underappreciated Canadian death metal entities around. ‘Harbinger‘ reinforces the impossible extremity their core songwriters have long written into a cryptic cyclone of violent brutal death metal. In the midst of this destruction they now achieve a most readable brand of cunning riff and rhythm beyond their usual stabbing at the limits of actionable notes within a composition. Theirs is a craft ambitious enough to push the body to a point of physical pain, mercifully limiting their inhumane acts to three to five minute bursts as they further detail the sinister cosmology of the bespoke sci-fi universe threaded throughout their discography. Though it’ll have to be an obsession to stick in mind with any absolute permanence the spectacular finesse on display here leaves no thought unaddressed, no half measures or potentiation left hanging.

Officially formed in 2010 with guitarist/vocalist Charlie Leduc as the prime mover, Deformatory would quickly work their craft up to the highest standard of the time in terms of brutal and technical death metal which paid no mind to the trendy deathcore shit that’d sparked up hot at the end of the previous decade, instead leaning into technique driven brutality. Their debut full-length (‘In the Wake of Pestilence‘, 2013) wasn’t so packed with riffs that it weren’t readable but the abrasive, clangorous militancy of its attack initially obscured just how thoughtful its arrangements were. The unbridled, impossible to muzzle attack which Deformatory would become known for was only considered a hindrance by generalist critics who’d soon (and since) call for “expansion” away from the decisive and maximal machine gunning, this’d missed the point and I suppose a retread of their early work might require some understanding of the immense capabilities found within the extremes of the rhythm-obsessed spectrum of technical death metal. Difficult as it might be to consider giving due process of engagement to a bulldozer, meeting this sort of band on their own terms is the only way to reveal character within what is chaotic at face value.

Impossibly rife, or, incredibly dense with time-compressed melodic and performative ideas would’ve been the right way to describe the second and third full-lengths from the band beyond that point. The early sound of the band would evolve its Cryptopsy and Origin-esque eruptions to a terrifyingly maximal peak on the CDN Records released ‘Malediction‘ (2016), a record which was often compared to Dehumanized for their frenetic and over the top brutality it’d brought up front. From my point of view it’d been closer to something like Odious Mortem meets Hate Eternal, and even moreso when considering ‘Inversion of the Unseen Horizon‘ (2021) and this mLP. While I think that early development of the band was an interesting enough apex to reach as a group the real personality beyond the norm from the band would arise once they’d cut the line-up down to guitarist/vocalist Leduc and drummer Neil Grandy for that third album, aimed for a more organic/realistic production value, and began exploring heavier classicist death metal tangents.

They whom dread naught anything. — Even when tempered by several steady hands and given more realistic rendering ‘Harbinger‘ still reads as an explosive and irrepressible bout of hate-filled, outsized death metal violence. Whereas many brutal death metal bands today are less than eager to push limits in ambitious ways for fear of stumble Deformatory seem to have had to set certain rules, limiters to keep their craft from imploding into its own gravitational well. These checks and balances have made for their most memorable release to date, still entirely imposing as a full listen but not as obstructed the glut. “Plagueworm” is a fine example of how lining up a series of riffs for the sake of an energetic opener is no simple toss for a group like this, firing off something like eight runs before finally repeating any of ’em and sort of resembling the debut LP from Vitriol in the process of cracking away at piece after piece in this style. “Corpseborn” is likely the first song to catch the ear on the initial listen as it touches upon the best parts of ‘Formulas Fatal to the Flesh‘ as it oozes into its otherwise Angelcorpse-esque grooves, slipping and shredding atop the double bass drum havoc beneath.

“Sunrot” and “Dustcult” are arguably the most signature examples of riffcraft in terms of Leduc‘s guitar arrangements, very much influenced by the mid-2000’s side of death metal craft wherein groups like Nile, Hate Eternal and other ‘ready mentioned groups reached their peak technical proficiency and statement. In this sense we’re getting refinement of the slightly more kinetic but less focused best found on ‘Inversion of the Unseen Horizon‘ and I’d read this as a sign that Deformatory are headed in the right direction as they refine in careful approach of their next full-length. The break around ~3:00 minutes into “Dustcult” is the sort of interruption which I’d like to see more of from the band in the future, pacing which allows development of surreal yet classic death metal momentum.

Was it all a pleasure to listen to? I’d say it was taxing in a satisfying way. I don’t listen to the ultra-kill side of technical death metal anymore, well, not as much as I did in the late 2000’s and it’d taken some extended number of listens to immerse into this very kinetically charged realm for the sake of reviving muscle memory. Once I’d found the right headspace and took the time to learn and anticipate these compositions the consistently neat and expressive hand of the artist became very clear within this perhaps richest and most balanced production value on offer. It’d left me looking forward to what they’re working on next and impressed by the amount of work that’d gone into the densely populated and vivifying brevity of this release. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
RELEASE DATE:September 13th, 2022

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