Released: 2008, Prosthetic Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
For those who first latched on to Montreal’s Neuraxis with 2005’s TRILATERAL PROGRESSION, a fair bit has changed in the ensuing three years. Vocalist Ian Campbell and founding guitarist Steven Henry have left the fold and been replaced with Alex LeBlanc (Point Blank Rage, Atheretic) and William Seghers (Quo Vadis), respectively. The band has also ended its brief partnership with Willowtip Records and moved to greener pastures over at Prosthetic Records for the release of their fifth studio album, THE THIN LINE BETWEEN. The one thing that hasn’t changed, though, is Neuraxis’ aptitude for penning melodic death metal that merges the brutality of Suffocation and the technical chops of Death. The music isn’t overly flashy or too technical, nor does it lean one way or the other towards becoming too heavy or too light. From the musicianship to vastly improved production, everything is just right here. Neuraxis have really come a long way since 1997’s IMAGERY first grabbed the ears of discerning metalheads, but have yet to move in to the upper tier with their compatriots in Kataklysm and Cryptopsy. THE THIN LINE BETWEEN makes a pretty solid case as to why they ought to be there, though.
As with any melodic death metal band, the guitars are the key and Rob Milley and William Seghers deliver in spades. Whether doing impressive fret runs on “Wicked” or laying down a tasteful classical guitar solo on “The All and The Nothing,” the riffs are immediately memorable and never sound repetitive. Listen to “Oracle” for a lesson in neck-abusing groove mixed with red-hot riffs. Drummer Tommy McKinnon has really stepped up his game, too, with a broad spectrum of tempos demonstrated throughout. “Dreaming The End” is a relentless wall of blastbeats and fills but even on the crushing monster “Wicked,” McKinnon shows a flair for tasteful, almost progressive beats and fluid tempo shifts. For his part, Alex LeBlanc leaves his mark by unleashing his mighty roars on “Darkness Prevails,” “Versus” and “Phoenix.” His style isn’t anything out of the ordinary for the genre but he certainly fills the void left by Ian Campbell. What really separates THE THIN LINE BETWEEN from Neuraxis’ previous efforts is the greater focus on melody and diversity within the confines of death metal. The songs are catchy without bringing in clean vocals or sugary lead breaks to water things down. Also, the improvements in songwriting are evident immediately as the band’s maturity (remember, it has been over a decade since the first record) and musical prowess is leaps and bounds ahead of even 2002’s TRUTH BEYOND.
A few of Neuraxis’ older fans might feel a bit left out in the cold by the more mid-tempo approach taken on THE THIN LINE BETWEEN but this is a natural progression that has been underway over the past two releases. THE THIN LINE BETWEEN is an extremely likeable album that begs for repeated listens but also maintains the intensity of a death metal album. With a renewed lineup and bigger label backing them, Neuraxis might finally take the next step up the death metal ladder that they so rightly deserve.
KILLER KUTS: “Darkness Prevails,” “Wicked,” “Versus,” “Dreaming The End,” “Oracle,” “Phoenix”