Sound — 9
Coming close to the 10-year anniversary of their breakthrough album, "Antithesis," Origin had previously been a well-kept secret in the death metal scene before earning some well-deserved recognition for their impeccable instrumental skills. From there, the Kansas quartet signed with the reputable extreme metal label Nuclear Blast to maximize their momentum, with their next two albums, 2011's "Entity" and 2014's "Omnipresent," reaching even higher in the Billboard Heatseekers charts.
Though climbing up in success, Origin's songwriting is pretty much set in stone - play those death metal instruments as relentlessly as possible. While the previous "Omnipresent" showed the band making some efforts to hone some ambience to accompany the main course of raging technical death metal, Origin's new album, "Unparalleled Universe," slims down on those theatrics, and invest more in the riffing. With their breakneck-paced tremolo and drumkit-breaking blastbeats still acting as the brick and mortar for songs, Origin make more of an effort to give each song something of its own to distinguish it from the overcast heaviness. Guitarist Paul Ryan and bassist Mike Flores immediately leap into their hallmark sweep picking at the intro of "Infinitesimalto the Infinite," more technical fretwork is shown off in the following "Accident and Error" and the tap-happy "Cascading Failures," "Truthslayer" plays on the Red light/Green light flow of staccato slams and stampede riffing, and the lead tremolo in "Dajjal" manically darts around in its progression.
Furthermore, Origin show a better job wielding more than just chaos in "Unparalleled Universe." Unlike their previous albums accomplishing this via interstitial tracks, Origin sculpt other songs with more substantial change-ups from their death metal grinds. This is most obvious in the penultimate "Unequivocal," where its near ten-minute runtime is composed with more of a progressive metal mentality, though it also provides more mosh-worthy moments in other songs, like the sludgy second half of "Burden of Prescience," or the steady galloping groove in "Mithridatic," which bears a nice essence of hardcore influence.
Only in a couple of cases does "Unparalleled Universe" leave more to be desired. While "Invariance Under Transformation" also adheres to the aforementioned "more than just chaos" songwriting, its relatively lower sonic intensity may result in being the designated skippable track on the album. The same could be said for the ending Brujeria cover "Revolución," which, aside from featuring some harsh vocal assistance from Alekhine's Gun frontwoman and Orange Is the New Black cast member Jessica Pimentel, doesn't add much more to the table than the original version.
Lyrics — 7
Going hand in hand with the reiteration of relentless death metal, frontman Jason Keyser's lyrics in "Unparalleled Universe" bring another heaping of snarling doom and global-scale misanthropy. Being even more apropos as international scandals and natural disasters continue to ramp up in the real world, Keyser's scathing lines of humans' middling existence in the modern world ("Compulsively building your monoliths on shifting sands / Delusion claiming an autonomy over fetishizing misery" in "Cascading Failures, Diminishing Returns") and ignorance of impending danger ("Where is this global warming?" in "Truthslayer") show him being more than ready to put the toe-tag on Earth and call it a day. Those scenes of destruction Keyser imagines mainly lean on the scientific predictions that nature will be the force that does humanity in, whether it is civilization finally breaking the environment beyond repair ("The ground falling within their eyes... The world is left to rot" in "Invariance Under Transformation"), or nature reclaiming its planet in a sense of poetic justice ("Regardless of intervention / The elements revolt and wipe away / Every shred of humanity" in "Accident And Error"), though he also spares a moment to take the religious route in entertaining doomsday via the antichrist in Islamic mythology in "Dajjal" ("Resurrect / The second coming / The ending").
Overall Impression — 8
At this point, Origin have nailed their technical death metal down to a science, and while that dependability may consequently result in little more to branch off into, their superlative instrumental skills continue to be a display to marvel at. But with minor change-ups to how the album runs from front to back, Origin's dynamic approach in "Unparalleled Universe" sets itself apart from their previous albums of recently, and offers more to experience than just the dazzling technicality of their death metal.