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Technical Death Metal
Technical death metal and progressive death metal are subgenres of Death Metal that infuse the (in)famous assaulting musical brutality of the genre with the technicality and elaborate musical structures of Progressive Metal. The songs tend to be very complex, and often include influences from other genres, such as jazz or classical music; the result is a highly cerebral musical style that rewards close and repeated listening, without surrendering the unrelenting musical aggression Death Metal is known for.

There is, or can be, a difference between "technical death metal" and "progressive death metal", though many artists fit both descriptions or oscillate between. While both are undeniably musically sophisticated and extremely brutal, tech death bands tend to come across as much more intense, often performing their complex compositions with blinding speed and pounding aggression, or in a manner that emphasises the virtuosic skill and precision of the performances. Technical death metal can thus sometimes have a somewhat machine-like, "triggered" sound, with instruments starting and stopping suddenly or irregularly, playing precisely calculated riffs or patterns which shift frequently and sometimes seemingly at random, only to form part of a larger motif or series of progressions which become apparent upon close listening.

"Progressive death metal", on the other hand, tempers the conventional "death metal" repertoire of elements with jazzy breakdowns, melodic refrains, unusual (for death metal) instrumentation and vocalisation, or slower tempi, and generally draws liberally from diverse musical traditions to create elaborate, multilayered sounds that evolve across lengthy and eclectic albums. Progressive death metal thus tends to be more diverse or less identical-sounding, in that while tech death bands commonly draw inspiration from other musical forms, progressive death metal bands often do so multiply within a single song or album, and though demonstrably capable of the sort of chops-intensive wizardry found in tech death, prog death bands often forego these displays in favour of allowing their compositions time to breathe via greater repetition, subtler permutation, and more extensive progression.

Thus the distinction could be argued to be that technical death metal prides itself on instrumental skill and experimentation, while progressive death metal prides itself on compositional exploration and originality. A quicker way to explain the difference to a metalhead would be this:

  • Progressive: Opeth
  • Technical: Decapitated


Deserving special attention are Death, not only for inventing Death Metal as a whole, but for subsequently kickstarting both prog and tech with their 1991 album Human, which stood head-and-shoulders above contemporaneous releases in terms of the proficiency and originality of its songcraft and production, with seriously insightful lyrics accompanying inventive chords through inspired and memorable songwriting. It and all subsequent Death albums are considered standard-setting classics, with Humannote  and Individual Thought Patternsnote  cleaving more closely to technical death metal and Symbolicnote  and The Sound of Perseverancenote  closer to progressive death metal to the contemporary ear.

Further bands that are generally classified as technical/progressive death metal (exact subgenre noted by their name) include:

  • Achokarlos (prog, a very Neo Classical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly example; notably a solo project)
  • The Agonist (melodic prog on Prisoners)
  • Akercocke (prog, although they are a slight case of Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly and could also be classified as blackened death or progressive black)
  • Alarum (prog, with some slight Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly tendencies)
  • Alchemist (prog, mixed with Psychedelic Rock of all things)
  • Allegaeon (melodic tech)
  • Alterbeast (tech)
  • Anomalous (prog)
  • Archspire (brutal tech)
  • Arkaik (brutal tech on Reflections, both on Metamorphignition)
  • Arsis (melodic tech; also prog on A Diamond for Disease)
  • Artificial Brain (tech)
  • Atheist (both, and the Ur Example of technical death if you believe that Hellwitch was more thrash than death)
  • Augury (prog)
  • Barren Earth (prog)
  • Barring Teeth (avant-garde tech in the vein of Gorguts' Obscura)
  • Becoming the Archetype (prog)
  • Behold ... The Arctopus (both)
  • Beneath The Massacre (tech mixed with Deathcore)
  • Between The Buried And Me (prog; debatably also tech; also Mathcore, at least on their early releases, although there is little -core influence left in most of their albums after Alaska)
  • Beyond Creation (both)
  • Blotted Science (both)
  • Born of Osiris (prog mixed with Deathcore)
  • Brain Drill (tech)
  • Broken Hope (prog on Loathing, tech on Grotesque Blessings)
  • Brutality (tech)
  • Buried Future
  • Cattle Decapitation (both, mixed with deathgrind)
  • Cephalic Carnage (both and deathgrind)
  • The Chasm (prog, arguably also tech)
  • Continuum (brutal tech)
  • Cryptopsy (brutal tech, except for The Unspoken King, which was Deathcore, and also incredibly poorly received. Once Was Not could debatably be considered prog as well.)
  • Cynic (prog; debatably tech)
  • Darkthrone (bet you're surprised to see them here, but their first album, Soulside Journey, qualified as tech before their Genre Shift to Black Metal)
  • Decapitated (tech; debatably also prog on Carnival Is Forever)
  • Decrepit Birth (tech on …And Time Begins; both on Diminishing Between Worlds and Polarity)
  • Deeds Of Flesh (tech, at least in their recent work)
  • Defeated Sanity (slam and brutal tech)
  • Demilich (tech)
  • Desecravity (brutal tech)
  • Devolved (tech)
  • Dim Mak (tech)
  • Dir En Grey (tech and prog mixed with elements of different and disparate musical genres, starting with Marrow of a Bone after experimenting with Deathcore on Withering To Death.)
  • Disarmonia Mundi ( Melodic Prog)
  • Dying Fetus (brutal tech)
  • Dysmorphic (tech)
  • Edge of Sanity (melodic prog)
  • Eternal Grey (both)
  • Extol (blackened prog)
  • The Faceless (tech on Planetary Duality, prog on Autotheism)
  • Fallujah (both; early material was Deathcore)
  • Fleshgod Apocalypse (brutal tech on Oracles and Mafia)
  • Gigan (prog)
  • Gojira (prog and groove)
  • Gorguts (tech; also avant-garde and debatably also prog from Obscura onwards)
  • Gorod (both)
  • Hour Of Penance (brutal tech)
  • Inanimate Existence (prog)
  • Inferi (mixed with melodic death)
  • Internal Suffering (brutal tech)
  • Job for a Cowboy (tech, after they moved away from Deathcore)
  • Lascaille's Shroud (prog)
  • Lecherous Nocturne (blackened tech)
  • Lykathea Aflame (both)
  • Malignancy (brutal tech)
  • maudlin of the Well (avant-garde prog)
  • Mephistopheles (tech)
  • Meshuggah (tech, thrash, in some cases, grindcore; also prog on I and Catch 33)
  • Mithras (both; especially prog on Worlds Beyond the Veil and Behind the Shadows Lie Madness)
  • Mitochondrion (prog)
  • Monstrosity (tech)
  • Morbus Chron (prog on Sweven)
  • Natron (Brutal Tech)
  • Necrophagist (tech, debatably also prog)
  • Neuraxis (both)
  • Nile (brutal tech)
  • Nocturnus (both; possible Trope Maker with their 1990 debut The Key)
  • Node (tech)
  • Obscura (prog)
  • Odious Mortem (tech)
  • Omnihility (brutal tech)
  • Opeth (prog)
  • Origin (brutal tech)
  • Orphaned Land (prog)
  • Pestilence (tech)
  • Psycroptic (tech)
  • Pyrrhon (noisy tech, debatably prog as well)
  • Quo Vadis (both)
  • The Red Chord (tech, crossing over with Deathcore and Deathgrind)
  • Revocation (tech, mixed with Thrash Metal)
  • Rings of Saturn (tech, mixed with deathcore)
  • Rivers of Nihil (prog)
  • Sadist (prog)
  • Sarcófago (possible co-Trope Maker for tech on The Laws of Scourge, which is their only album that qualifies)
  • Sarcolytic (brutal tech)
  • Sculptured (prog)
  • Severed Savior (brutal tech on Servile Insurrection)
  • Sin (tech)
  • Slaughterbox (brutal tech)
  • Son of Aurelius (melodic tech)
  • Sophicide (tech)
  • Spawn of Possession (tech)
  • Suffocation (Trope Codifier for tech; also codified brutal, and probably the reason why a lot bands combine the two)
  • Tiamat (prog, on Wildhoney only)
  • Timeghoul (both)
  • !T.O.O.H.! (both, and also have a lot of Grindcore influence)
  • Trigger The Bloodshed (tech; first album was Deathcore)
  • Ulcerate (tech; debatably prog, especially on The Destroyers of All)
  • Unhuman (prog)
  • Vale of Pnath (melodic tech)
  • Viraemia (brutal tech)
  • Wintersun (prog; also Melodic Death Metal)
  • Wormed (brutal tech with deathgrind influence; debatably prog-ish on their latest release, Exodromos)
  • The Zenith Passage (tech)

Tropes that apply to prog/tech death:

  • A God Am I: Tech death acts, especially those who write fantasy-based lyrics, are particularly infamous for invoking this trope. The lyrical implementation can range from something as relatively tame as having control over the future to a straight-up insatiable desire to destroy everyone and everything. Often written in Purple Prose for maximum effect.
  • Dumb and Drummer: Strongly averted here. Hell, even the more blast-happy drummers still have to have truly incredible stamina, dexterity, and senses of time to be able to pull off what they do.
  • Epic Rocking - Frequently, especially on the prog side of the family.
  • Genre-Busting: A direct consequence of bands using Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly to full effect
  • Lead Bassist: Lots and lots of Type A examples, with Mike Flores (Origin), Erlend Caspersen (Spawn Of Possession), Jacob Schmidt (Defeated Sanity), Olivier Pinard (Cryptopsy, Neuraxis), Ivan Munguia (Brain Drill, Arkaik, Deeds of Flesh), Toshiya (Dir En Grey), Dominic "Forest" Lapointe (Augury, Beyond Creation), and Jeff Hughell being some of the individuals who stand out even amongst them.
    • Though it may be argued that within the generic context these individuals and others ought to count as Type D examples, rather than strictly Type A. Because both prog and tech death place substantial emphasis on writing interesting and challenging parts for all instruments, bassists in the genre are, moreso than in other rock or metal genres, considered to be integral if not central to the band's sound, and thus cut far larger figures within the consciousness of fans, and are simply unlikely to be overlooked, especially if they are particularly skilled.
      • The abundance and popularity of bass solos, or duelling solos in which the bassist and the lead guitarist trade off against one another, probably doesn't hurt either.
  • Lyrical Dissonance - Despite being death metal, lyrics range about evenly from the traditional Deathy Gorn to philosophy, social commentary, speculative fiction, spirituality or the occult, and even comedy.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness - Tech and prog death usually comes in at a 10, though brutal death often reaches to 11.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly - Mostly prog death, which often aims to produce truly excellent death metal by combining it with elements of just about every other excellent form of music in existence.
  • Trope Maker and Ur Example - Atheist, which began life as an extremely technical offshoot of Thrash Metal and grew in heaviness for the second album.
  • Trope Codifier - Atheist and Death for tech in general, Suffocation for brutal tech, Opeth for standard prog, Meshuggah for djenty prog, and Gorguts for noisy avant-garde prog.
  • Uncommon Time - Fuck yes.
  • Up to Eleven - Ubiquitous; in fact, pushing the envelope at all levels of musicality is virtually axiomatic of both prog and tech death.


Melodic Death MetalMusic/Heavy MetalDoom Metal
Melodic Death MetalHeavy MetalDoom Metal
Groove MetalChristian MetalUr Example
Melodic Death MetalMusic TropesDoom Metal

alternative title(s): Progressive Death Metal; Tech Death
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