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 breath 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 Human*
and Individual Thought Patterns*
cleaving more closely to technical death metal and Symbolic*
and The Sound of Perseverance*
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)
- Akercocke (prog, although they are a slight case of Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly and could also be classified as blackened death metal or progressive black metal)
- Allegaeon (melodic tech)
- Anomalous (prog)
- Arkaik (brutal tech on Reflections, both on Metamorphignition)
- Arsis (melodic 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 (tech, and avant-garde in the style of Gorgut's Obscura)
- Becoming the Archetype (prog)
- Behold ... The Arctopus (both)
- Between The Buried And Me (prog; debatably tech)
- Beyond Creation (both)
- Blotted Science (both)
- Brain Drill (tech)
- Brutality (tech)
- Buried Future
- Cattle Decapitation (both, mixed with deathgrind)
- Cephalic Carnage (both and deathgrind)
- The Chasm (prog)
- Cryptopsy (tech, except for The Unspoken King, which was Deathcore, and also incredibly poorly received)
- Cynic (prog; debatably tech)
- Decapitated (tech)
- 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)
- Dying Fetus (brutal tech)
- Edge of Sanity (prog)
- Eternal Grey (both)
- Extol (blackened tech)
- 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 (avant-garde tech)
- Gorod (both)
- Inanimate Existence (prog)
- Internal Suffering (brutal tech)
- Job for a Cowboy (tech, after they moved away from Deathcore)
- Lecherous Nocturne (blackened tech)
- Malignancy (brutal 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)
- Necrophagist (both)
- Neuraxis (both)
- Nile (brutal tech)
- Node (tech)
- Obscura (prog)
- Odious Mortem (tech)
- Opeth (prog)
- Origin (brutal tech)
- Orphaned Land (prog)
- Pestilence (tech)
- Psycroptic (tech)
- Quo Vadis (both)
- The Red Chord (tech, crossing over with Deathcore and Deathgrind)
- Revocation (tech, mixed with Melodic Death Metal and Thrash Metal)
- Sadist (prog)
- Sarcolytic (brutal tech)
- Sculptured (prog)
- Sophicide (tech)
- Spawn of Possession (tech)
- Suffocation (codifier for tech; also codified brutal, and probably the reason why a lot bands combine the two)
- Tiamat (prog, on Wildhoney only)
- Timeghoul (both)
- Trigger the Bloodshed (tech; first album was Deathcore)
- Ulcerate (tech; debatably prog)
- Vale of Pnath (melodic tech)
- Viraemia (brutal tech)
- Wormed (brutal tech; debatably prog-ish on their latest release, Exodromos)
Tropes that apply to prog/tech death:
- Awesomeness by Analysis - Quite frequently; chances are good that nobody you know could perform, let alone write, most of this stuff.
- Badass Normal - Implied by the above.
- Crowning Music of Awesome - Frequently; it now has its own page, which Needs More Love.
- 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), Ivan Munguia (Brain Drill, Arkaik, Deeds of Flesh), and Dominic "Forest" Lapointe (Augury, Beyond Creation) 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.
- The Power of Rock - Extreme; both prog and tech are essentially concerted attempts to produce weapons-grade face-melting mind-bending awesomeness.
- Incendiary Exponent - Some of the more mind-bending mucisianship in prog/tech death (see Necrophagist, immediately above) could probably only be made appreciably cooler by being performed while wreathed in flame. And glowing.
- The Scrappy: The genre has been steadily becoming this in the eyes of purists due to the amount of bands going "tech" and changing their lyrical approach to vaguely philosophical/metaphysical Purple Prose-filled rambling, particularly deathcore acts.
- 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.
- 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.