Sound — 9
One great thing about the metal scene is that the music constantly self perpetuates by proximity. Alkaloid is a name not many would be familiar with, and rightly so, but the names behind it? That's a different story.
As soon as the news that Obscura would be losing Christian Meunzner and Hannes Grossman, two incredibly talented blokes, just on the verge of album news coming from the Obscura camp, the next thing is suddenly Alkaloid, a semi-supergroup of metal veterans composing the very concept of an ideal album. Alongside Grossman and Meunzner is Linus Klausenitzer on bass (also of Obscura), Danny Tunker from Aborted on third guitar (yup, read that correctly) and masterminded by vocalist/guitarist Morean, of Dark Fortress fame.
On the face of it, these musicians come from different spheres of metal: Obscura is technical, complex and unforgivingly dark neo-classical. Aborted is balls-out, unchained deathgrind forced into a 2 minute session of face meets hammer. Dark Fortress is uniquely bleak, grand, sweeping black metal. However, the individuals are what matter here.
Alkaloid is a hard beast to pin down. A combination of Obscura speed, aggression, dissonance, blended with hooky riffs and memorable song structure. Add to that, progressive metal and rock stylings akin to Opeth (acoustic guitars and dynamic shifts), conceptual songs such as the "Dyson Sphere Saga" (hell, there's even a song about summoning Chthulu) and a knack for incredibly memorable melody lines.
Each member brings their own writing and style into each song. This is most apparent in the guitar solos. With three guitarists who are pretty distinct from each other, there is a mass of variety going on in the leads and riffs. Meunzner is characterized by light, fluidic and intricate tapping legatos, a very distinctive sound. Morean is also distinctive: A much more chaotic, chromatic and more alternate style of playing, but it still remains very fluidic. The big part of his sound is his "artificial harmonic shredding." You'll know it when you hear it, rest assured, but its a totally unique technique I've yet to hear from anywhere else. Tunker is closer to the idea of a death metal shredder, yet his style is actually rather melodic and very hooky.
The songs are similarly diverse. "Alter Magnitudes" is definitely a Grossman/Meunzner song at base: ultra-fast, semi-melodic neoclassical technical death metal interspersed with insanely addictive soloing and a fantastic harmonized lead mid track that feels like the world exploding around you. "Orgonism" is a more drawn out progressive track, that starts off in one genre and ends in another altogether, going from thematic and calming prog rock to a powerful, almost futuristic death metal ending. "Funeral for a Continent" spans everything contained in the album in one song, a really strong summation of what the album represents.
What makes this album sound good, overall, is its diversity. That's the point I really want to hammer home. I feel like I went through a powerful opus having experienced the very concept of technical metal wrapped in an album.
Lyrics — 8
As mentioned, Morean is the vocalist here. Upon first listen, you could be forgiven for thinking it was Steffen Kummerer from Obscura, as the styles, tones and rhythmic patterns are very similar between the two gentlemen. However, Morean presents a very wide range of vocal abilities across "The Malkuth Grimoire," ranging from his mid-harsh scream to resonating low growls, from airy and layered clean vocals to some approximation of Tibetan throat singing (as heard on "Orgonism"). "The Dyson Sphere Saga" also shows a more "actor" portrayal in his vocals, as if he were on stage portraying lines through vocal styles. The only real criticism I could make is that often times, the harsh vocals are entirely dominant and there's very little instrumental space aside from on the longer songs. Its less about overvalued vocals, more about undervalued instrumental parts.
Lyrically, the album has a song called "Chthulu" and it's about Chthulu. I don't need to say anything else, really.
But I will anyway. "The Malkuth Grimoire" concept, as explained by Morean (as I understood it), is a take on the concepts of gods, demons and dark things human minds imagine into existence, then had a spin put on them interlinked with modern concepts such as the LHC/Black Hole phenomenon, a futuristic "sun farming" device (i.e. "The Dyson Sphere") and of course, "Chthulu." Interesting stuff.
Overall Impression — 9
Initially, its not hard to hear the incredibly strong Obscura-isms going on in the album, but Morean's, Danny Tunker's and Linus' input freshens things up to a comfortable amount, making for a very diverse, strong debut. Aside from the vocal complaint, the only negative point is that perhaps some songs last a little too long? Personal preference though.
Songs to look out for: "Alter Magnitudes," "Orgonism" and "C-Value Enigma" (cuz it's weird) but each song is good in its own right, although the four "Dyson Sphere" tracks probably need to be listened to in order for consistencies sake.