Centaurus-A - Side Effects Expected
Listenable Records
Technical Death Metal
10 songs (43:12)
Release year: 2009
Official Myspace, Listenable Records
Reviewed by Charles
Centaurus-A seems to have been around almost a decade before releasing this debut. The long wait for Side Effects Expected may be explained by the multiple other projects with which its members are involved including the intriguing folksy black metal outfit Klabautamann, which has received rave reviews at this site. This is something seemingly more straightforward, but no less impressive. It’s tech death as we have come to expect it, all about the crunching guitar parts and rapidfire leads. But it’s written with real creativity and an eye for light and shade; if it’s not quite nine years worth of ideas it’s certainly more than you’d find on most releases of this type.

The danger of seeping into a monochrome charge is expertly avoided, as the band dive fluently in and out of well-worked spacey lead runs and enjoyable knucklehead groove passages, glued firmly together by some expert riffing. Like a lot of more “progressive” metal bands Centuarus-A have three or four distinctly identifiable gears. There is the thunderously straightforward death metal generally coming from the Deicide handbook with plenty of Central and Northern European hints in there as well. Then we have a flamboyantly virtuosic side, which seems to raise its head two or three times a song. Linking these together is a wellspring of off-kilter flourishes that are relied upon for entire songs by bands such as Necrophagist but which here form connective tissue.

The more average moments are therefore the ones in which these combinations sound forced or uninspired. Opener The Praying Mantis, for example, is a more pedestrian chain of riffs rather than a fully-formed entity, leading you to expect something more average than you get from the remainder. For the most part, the compositional fluidity is what makes this stand out. Take a track such as Narcotic. The bones of it is straightforward rumbling death underpinning Jens Kidman-like vocals, with a further very light Meshuggah influence in the occasionally shifting rhythms of its primitive chug. But the instrumental sinews are relentlessly creative fretboard runs, that twist the prosaic vocal passages into alien shapes. It’s also in this track that we get a heaven-sent three or four seconds of proggy guitar tapping that would make Cynic proud. This impressive interaction between complementary elements is the norm, rather than the exception, on this album.

So, in Side Effects Expected we have one of the most exciting death metal debuts of 2009. This ought to appeal to anybody with an interest in the genre’s more show-offy end, whether their particular fancy is Deicide’s widdlier recent output, Necrophagist’s fratboy brutality, and even Cynic’s sophisticated spaciness. An excellent debut.

Killing Songs :
Narcotic, Selfmade Cage
Charles quoted 88 / 100
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