Alkaloid - Numen

Angry Metal Guy 70

German collective Alkaloid bucks the trend often associated with bands fitted with the ‘supergroup’ tag. With a line-up boasting members of such lauded acts as Spawn of Possession, Obscura, Necrophagist, Eternity’s End, Dark Fortress, and many others, on 2015’s striking debut The Malkuth Grimoire, and 2018’s phenomenal sophomore opus Liquid Anatomy, Alkaloid ascended to elite status in the modern progressive and technical death metal scenes. Alkaloid established a unique sound from the outset, their cosmic, science fiction-infused technical and progressive death formula featuring a futuristic, otherworldly vibe and melodic, experimental flair. Liquid Anatomy set the bar unreasonably high, so third album Numen arrives with lofty expectations. Taking the characteristics, stunning musicianship, and songwriting elements from the first two LPs and contorting and expanding in typically diverse, ambitious ways, can the 70-minute Numen match the formidable strengths of its predecessors?

Within their colorful and distinctive sound, Alkaloid continue exploring exciting new ways to shift and pirouette through rich progressive pastures, intricate arrangements, and technical firestorms. Quirkier melodies, oddball songwriting twists, and penetrating hooks feature, resulting in another weird, proggy, and unpredictable trip. “Qliphosis” opens proceedings and feels like reuniting with an old friend. The formula is recognizable, but the writing puts a fresh spin on the familiar. It’s particularly impressive how Alkaloid maintain cohesion and hurl asteroid-sized hooks, while retaining their wildly experimental, proggy edge. Amidst those strange melodic tendrils and progressive idiosyncrasies, Alkaloid bring the thunder, ensuring their burly death metal and monstrous grooves remain at the core. Should be opener “The Cambrian Explosion” detonates explosively, fueled by thrashy tech death, channeling Necrophagist and peak Obscura, with guest female vocals unexpectedly arising during an inspired mid-section.

“Clusterfuck” is an instant winner, anchored by an earworm chorus, the song’s blockbuster mix of beefy riffs, colossal groove, and nifty shred ties together beautifully. Their mid-era Morbid Angel influences surface on the riffy crush of “The Fungi From Yugguth,” a song also blessed with stunning lead work. Musically Alkaloid is a phenomenal force and despite losing guitarist Danny Tunker, they don’t miss a beat, the three-axe set-up trimmed to a more traditional two-axe attack. Christian Münzner and Morean share the load, combining tech death wizardry with chunky riffage and progressive flair, keeping the listener on their toes. Speaking of Morean, his vocal performance is worthy of high praise. A deceptively talented and versatile vocalist, Morean’s skills are on full display. Whether utilizing the subtly shifting tones of his powerful death growls, or unleashing his signature gruff melodic croons, he is often responsible for the album’s numerous melodic hooks, forming a unique, dynamic attribute to the Alkaloid sound. Hannes Grossmann’s work behind the kit is as spectacularly awesome as you would expect.

The first hefty chunk of the album represents a mercury-speckled gold standard of quality. In particular, the first six songs are uniformly excellent; addictive, unpredictable, and gripping. Things start to get a little wonky as the album progresses past the mid-section. “Numen” is a strange tune with cool moments, held back by a meandering, clunky structure, while dragging past its welcome. The blipping, atmospherics, and almost death-doom beginning of “The Folding” finds Alkaloid at their most guttural and heaving. Unfortunately, an artistic choice to infiltrate the nearly seven-minute song with roughly half its time devolving into drawn-out, experimental atmospherics, unsettles and kills momentum at once. Emotive thirteen-minute closer “Alpha Aur” could also use trimming, especially with its extended introduction. However, it’s an ambitious marvel, which oozes class and overflows with creative ideas and slick execution. It fluidly cruises from one progressive movement to the next, injecting shades of Opethian melody, soaring melodic hooks, grooving death surges, and extravagant shredding.

Alkaloid are too damn good at what they do to let some later album kinks derail another tremendous album. However, the nagging issues and bloated runtime diminishes the final package. A large portion of Numen pushes all the right buttons, but as a cohesive, consistent album it cannot match the end-to-end brilliance of Liquid Anatomy. The considerable bloat and backend flaws seriously hamper flow. A combined roughly ten minutes of time shaved off a couple of the weaker cuts and closer would have tightened an otherwise exemplary album. When it’s on, Numen is unstoppable. Mileage will vary, but Numen is still a must-listen, despite my personal grievances.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: |
Released Worldwide: September 15th, 2023

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Tue Sep 12 14:59:24 GMT 2023