Released: 2015, Self-released
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
The way tech/prog death metal bands are being snapped by underground labels like Unique Leader and Season Of Mist, and even bigger ones like Metal Blade, it's amazing they haven't been all over Philadelphia quintet Alustrium. Maybe they were and were rebuffed – since the band's 2011 debut was issued on their hometown label Toil Inc. and sank into obscurity, perhaps making them a bit gun shy - or indeed maybe everyone just missed the boat with these guys.
Regardless, Alustrium have self-released their terrific second effort, an album that runs circles around a lot of the tech/prog death metal that is flooding the market these days – and sounds fantastic to boot. And it comes just months after the band offered a “name your price” remastered version of their debut, An Absence of Clarity, on Bandcamp – which may be some indication of how things went with Toil.
Alustrium display that rare blend of instrumental dexterity, songwriting savvy, unbridled aggression and guile. As grand and expansive as A Tunnel of Eden ends up being, clocking in at about 75 minutes, it rarely seems showy or overwrought – a directionless collection of parts strung together to demonstrate the band members' respective prowess this is not.
Indeed, until the album concludes with the three-part, 33-minute “The Illusion Of Choice,” it seems relatively tidy with its technical dalliances countered by a rather vicious modern metal/death metal delivery. Indeed, Eden actually recalls Lamb Of God in many instances with its ample of groove, brisk, taut pace and tenacity – frontman Jerry Martin's acerbic roar also is a near dead ringer for LOG's Randy Blythe.
The songs leading up to the King Crimson-like instrumental “Lucid Intervals,” which serves as a lead-in to “The Illusion Of Choice,” all pack so much punch – aside from the 47-second segue “Wander” - that it's easy to overlook the sophistication of Chris Kelly and Mike DeMaria's guitar sparring or Kevin Penny and Chaz Squillace's determined rhythms. There are bruising hooks aplenty on “In His Own Image” or “Procreate Eviscerate” and it's only after repeated listens that the subtlety and depth of what lies beneath emerges.
Of course, the band's progressive inclinations are there in abundance on the staggering “Illusion,” which is every bit as intricate and vast as you'd think it would be, like vintage Genesis or Yes in a lengthy fit of 'roid rage. There's lots more of everything here and it all starts to become a bit absurd even before the 13-minute “The Illusion Of Choice III: Thanatos” brings things to a dizzying, merciful close.
Still, in spite of the indulgences and sheer audacity of “The Illusion Of Choice,” Alustrium deliver a well-crafted, impeccably performed and enormously satisfying second album that is more than worthy of the attention of prog/tech death metal fans, especially those looking for something with real teeth – whether the labels think so or no.