Released: 2009, Listenable Records
Germany’s Centaurus-A formed in 2000 and quickly released three demos before beginning the work that would become the debut album SIDE EFFECTS EXPECTED. The current album took two years to record and was released in 2009 on Listenable Records. Centaurus- A has combined melodic and progressive death metal with thrash to achieve a sound that is rarely boring and with just enough variety to keep things interesting. As often happens with many new bands, Centaurus-A’s penchant for going in many directions does not detract from the musicianship and skill of the band, particularly the incredible drumming and the melodic, sweep picked solos. No, the result of bands that cannot figure out just who they are usually leads to inconsistent songwriting, compositions that rarely stand out by themselves but have amazing individual parts that do not cohesively fit into a whole kick-ass song. This is the case with Centaurus-A.
SIDE EFFECTS EXPECTED opens with the predictable blistering paced “The Praying Mantis” that transcends into a melodic, arpeggiated section with a sweep picked melodic guitar solo. In fact, through the rest of the album it is instrumental sections like this one where the band displays their secret weapon. Each of these sections is almost worth the trouble of wading through the often bland and unmemorable riffs strung together to get to the instrumental pieces. Thus, the main problem and strength of this album is perfectly encapsulated in track one, it rarely being a good thing to want to hit the fast forward button to get to the good parts.
However the good parts are impressive. “Arson” switches things up nicely with a chugging groove oriented riff that hits like a brick and another beautiful melodic section with a tasteful guitar solo. One of the best tracks, “Dripping Red Canvas”, shows Coroner’s influence on Centaurus-A with the precision riffing, progressive tempo changes, and the inspiring guitar solo. Instrumental heavy weight, “The Ease” is a short but dynamic example of the melodic and focused songwriting that once present on an entire album will propel these guys to the top.
Vocally, Johannes Henke has the death metal style down, and while certainly adequate is not stretching any boundaries. The guitar playing is front and center but is matched by the impressive drumming of Patrick Shroeder, who pounds through each song with consummate skill. The production quality is what you would expect after two years of tinkering, every instrument perfectly discernible and balanced.
Taken as a whole, SIDE EFFECTS EXPECTED is an impressive debut. There is something here for everybody, and the technical skill of the band is undisputed. Sure there are some weaker moments, and many of the riffs seem to exist to fill out the song, but when the band hits their stride it is pretty magical. Considering much of the generic quality of the death metal genre recently, SIDE EFFECTS EXPECTED avoids many of the clichés and it is a refreshing release. Centaurus-A deserves to be on your radar and it will be interesting to see how this band progresses and develops on the next album.