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Psycroptic – Divine Council

Divine Council
by Santiago Puyol at 19 September 2022, 3:32 PM

Australian Technical Death Metallers PSYCROPTIC released “Divine Council”, their eighth full-length, on August 5th 2022. The follow-up to 2018’s “As The Kingdom Drowns” delivers nine tightly written and technically impressive songs, building on the sound of an experienced band. Over the course of 38 minutes, PSYCROPTIC takes the listener into a heavy ride that never fails to deliver.

Unlike other bands, PSYCROPTIC avoids the stagnation that prog-tingled Technical Death Metal sometimes gets stuck into by fully rejecting hooks or obsessing with writing overtly long songs. “Divine Council” is an album with catchy riffs, memorable choruses (even if they only feature harsh vocals) and tight songs that never go over the five-minute mark.

Take “A Fool’s Errand” for instance. Although it is one of the most overt Tech-Death tracks on the record, with busy guitar work and dense drumming, it remains melodic and urgent. David Haley embeds the song with adrenaline, rushing through the drum kit with ease. Nice guitar bends and noisy bits from Joe Haley, who also make some interesting chordal colouring during the songs’ chorus, using harmonic dissonance to induce the feeling of something being quite off.

This Shadowed World” is an even better example of the economical songwriting featured in the album, building towards an explosive finale going just a little over three minutes in length. Its harsh vocal layering is superb, instilling a menacing sense of dread by mixing higher shrieking with deeper growls and some conversational screaming. The musicianship always works for and not against the songwriting.

Subtle electronic elements give a bit of an Industrial edge to the album at times, they are used sparingly but still make part of the band’s sonic palette. “Awakening” mostly resorts to electronic percussive elements, specially noticeable on its intro, while “Enslavement” fully fleshes this elements, adding synthesized orchestrations (some nasty brass tones), as well as pad swells. The synth choices really build a dense, foggy atmosphere on “Enslavement”, feeling almost oppressive at times, mudding the track in a way that surely works. This Symphonic elements make their way into other tracks as well.

The use of haunting vocal harmonies is another interesting timbre they bring to the table, never overused. It is paired up with symphonic elements on closer “Exile”, but the most overt and interesting use has to be on “Ashes of Our Empire”. This track has One of the best bridges on the whole record, and the beautiful clean vocal harmonies layered underneath the massive instrumental and harsh vocals, sound vaguely RADIOHEAD-esque, adding a melancholic edge and some contrast.

Meanwhile, “The Prophets Council” inhabits its own world, being the most unique song on the record. The track opens with some truly haunting clean —maybe even acoustic—, Flamenco-like arpeggios. Percussive elements and hints of piano add a mysterious, almost sinister feel to this section and the track as a whole. The melodic ideas of the intro are built into the metal sections that follow, so it truly feels like a new section and not a song broke in two, as it sometimes happens when bands decide to add acoustic/softer elements to their music. There’s even a bit of a THE OCEAN/ISIS Post-Metal feel to the verses. Some playful syncopation on the rhythmic ideas, keep things fresh.

Overall, “Divine Council” is an outstanding record, filled with creative and tight songwriting, solid musicianship and memorable sections, helped by a strong production. When it comes to tonal and chordal choices, the band makes sensible decisions, avoiding complexity unless needed, which works as every new detail feels purposeful. This is an album that works because it puts the songs first, and that is absolutely commendable in a genre sometimes filled with show-offs and self-indulgent recrods.

P.S.: On a vaguely related note, what a gorgeous album cover! It’s a pity no song seems to really evoke that imagery musically at least, I would say “Enslavement” gets the closest.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 7
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Rend Asunder
2. A Fool’s Errand
3. This Shadowed World
4. Enslavement
5. Ashes of Our Empire
6. The Prophets Council
7. Awakening
8. A Fragile Existence
9. Exile
David Haley — Drums
Joe Haley — Guitars
Jason Peppiatt — Vocals
Todd Stern — Bass
Record Label: Prosthetic Records


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