There’s a fairly obvious correlation between talent and success, but there are a great number of examples when great potential yielded fairly awful results. That certainly wasn’t the case with the outstanding debut record from progressive death metal act Alkaloid, who broke off from Obscura, Aborted, and Dark Fortress to craft a rather striking vision of sci-fi prog metal. The Malkuth Grimoire was like addicting candy to music and literature nerds, so it stands to reason that their follow-up should offer up more of the same, right?
Fortunately, Liquid Anatomy finds a way to elevate the group’s strengths and fix the very few weaknesses into a rather stunning collection of complex and interconnected metal that is as riveting as it is thought-provoking. However, and this gets to a large part of Alkaloid’s core talent and success, where this second outing succeeds in spades is the band’s ability to make truly challenging music seem so effortless and magnificently catchy. “As Decreed by Laws Unwritten” features some hilariously technical rhythmic patterns, but the central riffs and melodies – along with a Cthulhu-sized bridge – manage to lodge themselves deep into your brain right away. In fact, each song on the record contains a whole host of moments that grab you more firmly than a Facehugger in space, with just enough eerie alien melodies to ensure you know something is off-kilter. “Azagthoth” is the perfect encapsulation for how Liquid Anatomy plays with the familiar and the foreign to wonderful effect.
In total, Alkaloid’s second release tweaks the band’s formula, leaning a bit heavier towards the prog elements this time; it’s much like Yes or Rush trying to write a Morbid Angel record. That weird concept gets at why Liquid Anatomy shouldn’t work – it’s too weird and catchy to be a prog death record, and it’s too heavy and trippy to please traditionalists. Instead, you’re left with a stunning collection of the patently absurd that manifests itself as a cohesive and incredible whole. Alkaloid have managed to leapfrog any heightened expectations by doing what they wanted rather than playing it safe. Sure, you could nitpick and say that “Rise of the Cephalopds” doesn’t need to be nearly 20-minutes (but there’s at least 17 minutes of essentials), or that the title track leans a little too far into Pink Floydian-isms (which is what makes the song, in my estimation). However, it’s all rather minor. Liquid Anatomy is a masterpiece of modern prog metal, another wonderful achievement from a band who continue to hurdle over their own high expectations.