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Technical Death Metal

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Primary Stylistic Influences:

Secondary Stylistic Influences:

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.

"Avant-tech" is more of a blanket label for acts that eschew conventional tech tropes, which usually translates to either a focus on dissonance or unconventional riffing approaches. Many acts that fit under this mantle have some overlap with technical or avant-garde black metal and sometimes mathcore as well, and the rule is generally that if the technicality and unconventional structures are used as tools to create specific musical textures, rather than as central features of the music, it's more likely than not avant-tech.

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, and avant focuses on technicality and complicated structures as a way of creating an atmosphere. A quicker way to explain the difference to a metalhead would be this:

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:

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.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Many early acts had strange and quirky styles that have never really been repeated since:
    • Atheist mixed death/thrash (particularly Hellwitch and earlier Sadus) with prominent jazz fusion, progressive rock, funk, Latin jazz, and son cubano elements, coupled with extremely prominent and creative basslines from Lead Bassist Roger Patterson.
    • Nocturnus mixed American death/thrash speed and aggression with prominent technical thrash metal elements, highly technical but relatively chaotic and unstructured leadwork, and extremely prominent keyboard lines that were a central thread in the music.
    • Mortal Decay mixed very early brutal death metal (largely Suffocation, Internal Bleeding, Pyrexia, and Broken Hope) with extremely prominent tech and prog-thrash riffing and melodic ideas, as well as subtle but noticeable jazz fusion elements.
    • Afterbirth took Mortal Decay's early style and filtered it through a Genre-Busting mix of post-hardcore, shoegaze, space rock, progressive rock, ambient, and even hip-hop (as some of their ambient elements and melodic ideas had more than a little in common with the work of producers like Prince Paul and Ali Shaheed Muhammad).
    • Sadist took the keyboard-centric approach of Nocturnus, slowed it down and relaxed the pace, increased the role of the keyboards even further (with more than a little influence from 80s Italian film soundtracks), and featured more melodic and jazz fusion-inspired leadwork.
  • Epic Rocking - Frequently, especially on the prog side of the family.
  • Fandom Rivalry: In a case of Snobs Vs Slobs, tech fans tend to look down upon slam fans and vice versa. The former tend to see slam fans as a bunch of would-be former deathcore kids in denial with a reactionary hatred of the genre that they still frequently listen to, who will blindly lap up anything with an unreadable logo no matter how shitty it is. Slam fans, meanwhile, see tech fans as a bunch of annoying meme-spammers who are easily impressed by anything that shamelessly rips off Necrophagist or Spawn of Possession, and who will blindly lap up anything from The Artisan Era and the bands associated with that circle as long as it's packaged well and has enough memes attached.
  • Genre-Busting - 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.
  • Lead Bassist: Lots and lots of Type A examples, with Steve DiGiorgio, Mike Flores (Origin), Jacob Schmidt (Defeated Sanity), Olivier Pinard (Cryptopsy, Neuraxis), Nick Schendzielos (Cephalic Carnage, Job for a Cowboy), Dominic "Forest" Lapointe (Augury, First Fragment, ex-Beyond Creation), Jared Smith (Archspire), Linus Klausenitzer (Obscura, Alkaloid), Hugo Doyon-Karout (Beyond Creation, Brought by Pain), Nick Shaw (Black Crown Initiate), Andrew Kim (Inferi), 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 dueling solos in which the bassist and the lead guitarist trade off against one another, probably doesn't hurt either.
  • Lead Drummer: Like bassists, there are lots and lots of drummers in the genre who are renowned for their technical ability, namely George Kollias (Nile), John Longstreth (Origin, Dim Mak, ex-Gorguts), Hannes Grossmann (Alkaloid, ex-Necrophagist, ex-Obscura), Flo Mounier (Cryptopsy), Lille Gruber (Defeated Sanity), and Jamie Saint Merat (Ulcerate).
  • 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.
  • Purple Prose: Certain bands that have very abstract and complicated lyrics tend to do this.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Clean vocals have become increasingly common in progressive acts as of the 2010s. Opeth, Cynic, and Extol pioneered this originally, while Obscura, Gojira, and The Faceless codified its modern usage. Other modern acts that regularly utilize this dynamic include Black Crown Initiate, Rivers of Nihil (circa Where Owls Know My Name), Alkaloid, Ne Obliviscaris, and Revocation.
  • Surreal Horror: The more experimental bands can invoke this in listeners, with their extensive use of dissonance, disorienting time signatures, and disturbing lyrics.
  • Symphonic Metal: Symphonic elements are a common part of the genre from the 2010s onward, particularly in the more melodic acts. Much of this can be owed to the steadily increasing influence of Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth, Fleshgod Apocalypse, and similar acts on the genre, and the sound of the archetypical 2010s melodic/symphonic tech act was largely codified by Inferi and popularized by The Artisan Era, who signed many similar 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. While less influential than Atheist, Nocturnus and Hellwitch are also commonly cited when the question of "who came first?" comes up.
  • Trope Codifier:
  • Uncommon Time - Fuck yes.

Tech songs (including all mentioned styles):

Alternative Title(s): Progressive Death Metal, Tech Death