There’s an odd notion that established or legacy acts rarely get better with age, and while the majority of cases can lead to a correlation of causation (read: most bands’ best works are usually early on), there are some Tasmanian Devils who are happy to break from that statistical trend.
Psycroptic, the only notable metal act I can think of from the island of Tasmania, have sharpened their musical tools to a deadly edge on their seventh album. Yes, it’s funny that a devilishly good group finds luck on holy number seven, but it’s not like Psycroptic needed a hell of a lot of tweaking to release their greatest work yet. That said, As the Kingdom Drowns is a fantastic, technical death metal record in large part because of those small tweaks.
First and foremost, this is a breathlessly efficient record in terms of the album’s length (under 35 minutes), the number of actual songs (nine), but also in the architecture of the songs themselves. Sure, riffs are repeated (more on that later), but each song represents Psycroptic’s pinnacle, with each instrument (OK, the bass is mostly absent post-mastering) bringing its best forward.
If I had to nitpick, a couple more guitar solos would not have been a bad choice, but everything is in near-constant motion, so it’s not like you’re going to get bored here.
Most importantly, great tech death is the metal equivalent of an all-world skateboarder on a half-pipe: it’s full of moments you have to replay to fully appreciate, especially when everything is going by so quickly. Psycroptic were always of the gleefully hyper-speed variety, but As the Kingdom Drowns is a masterclass in those re-playable moments while giving those guitar riffs and licks enough time to breathe.
Every song includes at least one (“Beyond the Black” is especially dexterous), and the joyful effect isn’t diminished despite near constant repetition on my media player (this tape would be downright worn out in the 80s). If anything, Psycroptic seem to have emphasized groove a bit more on this release, which gives the listener some time to appreciate the group’s noted ability to cram notes together (insert the infamous scene in Amadeus).
Ultimately, Psycroptic’s latest succeeds on the back of those slight tweaks and the fact that it’s mighty easy to consume in such an efficient package. An hour of anything is a challenge, but an hour of ludicrous speed tech death is a tall order. As the Kingdom Drowns is top-tier technical death metal done masterfully, and all in a very easy-to-consume package.