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Denominate - Isochron Award winner

by Rob Stone at 24 August 2020, 12:09 PM

The first thing you have to know about DENOMINATE is that they have been around longer than just five years, being known as ENCRYPTED more than ten years ago. This has given the band plenty of time to refine their sound and master their craft. The second thing, is that they have had no member changes. This means that they have remained loyal through all of the struggles that being in a band entails, and reassures us that their willingness and motivation is immovable. The third and final thing that you should know about this band, is that they are from Finland. What more could you ask for when searching for a progressive death metal band?

The artwork and general image of the band is a very familiar one, although not at all glamourous, it evokes the idea that the music will do the talking. The band has all the social media profiles you can think of and frankly, deserve more based on their sheer determination alone. The opening track “The Chain” opens with a windy mechanical sound and a ticking clock. Counting down to the riff that evokes very doom metal vibes. The track changes tempo very erratically but at the same time is not jarring to the listener. It allows some time to settle into the new section before suddenly shifting gears all the way from sludgy doom influenced riffage all the way to downright thrash metal riffs accompanied by blast beats and the signature roar of vocalist Ville Mannikko. The vocals are full of emotion and absolutely create a response in the listener.

“Departure” opens with an acoustic intro. Somber with a looming sense of doom. Perhaps progressive death metal is not the only genre that can be used to describe DENOMINATE. The opening riff is a soaring melodic lead guitar line which hooks the listener straight away before launching into a blast beat infested, tremolo picked psychosis of music. The catchiness remains throughout, heaviness is not achieved at the expense of melody and musicianship. Songwriting is obviously a big priority of the band, as opposed to just being heavy. Each one feeling like a journey that has been prepared with intention.

That journey continues with “Abandoned”. Each song can stand on its own merit. They can be kept as is, or enjoyed as part of the album. This song, specifically, seems to focus more on the mood conveyed as opposed to extremity of the emotion itself. It seamlessly transitions from crushing riffs and a sense of dread into a catchy chorus that remains heavy and emotive while blasting power chords and gang vocals. “Succession” begins in a familiar manner. It sounds much like the very bands that DETHKLOK take influence from to create their build ups. Harmonizing guitars over a stable backbone created by the bass and drums. The guitarists showcasing their abilities through various techniques and transitioning perfectly into a powerful palm muted riff that allows the room for vocals to take over as the focal point. Each instrument is carefully balanced to allow each person a chance at their time in the spotlight. It is impossible for one instrument to stand out because they are all so incredibly well done.

A sense of real dread begins to rear its head as “Desolation” begins. An e-bow feeds back a high-pitched note, filling the listeners head with dissonance and anticipation. Even as the rhythm section joins in the song remains subdued for as long as it can. Slow and in no hurry to get where it’s going.  Brutal growls echo through the track, sending home the mood of this song: truly depressive and ambient. It is a rare opportunity to hear a band so influenced by death metal perform something so raw and melodic while still having incredible production. And yet the band never goes overboard with it. It is always tasteful and never over the top.

As the previous song fades slowly with an acoustic guitar we enter “The Chronicler”. A song which opens immediately with a guitar tone similar to post black metal. Loose and evocative of what’s to come. There is intent behind the sound until the band throws a curve ball. Rather than start blasting as fast as they can with a tremolo picked riff like you would imagine, it drops into a downright solid beat with everything the band has shown up to this point being solidified in one ten-minute-long epic track.

As a static laden morse code message fades the outro of the penultimate track, we now enter the final song. “Isochron”, the title track, begins immediately. A pumping rhythm with a MESHUGGAH style kick pattern that makes the listener want to head bang. This is the style of sound that I was expecting this whole album. And having now listened to nearly forty-five minutes of surprises and U-turns, the band creates yet another one, by throwing what can only be described as a jazz breakdown in the middle of their death metal song. And they throw their twist on it that makes it fit perfectly in the context of their vision. The song is a journey, returning eventually to the pumping rhythm introduced at the beginning of the track. It signifies that the song and indeed the album have come full circle. The end is near and the final minutes of the album are the most intense yet.

The final synopsis that can be given is that if you can remind someone of bands like ATHEIST, MESHUGGAH, DETHKLOK and INSOMNIUM, yet retain your individuality amongst all of them, you’re doing a good job. Very underrated band, very big future ahead.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. The Chain
2. Departure
3. Abandoned
4. Succession
5. Desolation
6. The Chronicler
7. Isochron
Ville Männikkö - Vocals
Eetu Pylkkänen/Kimmo Raappana - Guitars
Tuomas Pesälä - Bass
Joni Määttä - Drums
Record Label: Inverse Records


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