Alkaloid – Liquid Anatomy (Season of Mist)

Sunday, 20th May 2018
Rating: 9.5/10

Given the massive landscape that Alkaloid’s debut, The Malkuth Grimoire, was able to accomplish, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to expect that high bar to be unattainable a second time around. Yet Alkaloid still manage to subvert expectations without stooping to a mere second helping of Grimoire, instead further enriching what worked last time while giving into some pleasant surprises to keep listeners genuinely intrigued start to finish.

Given the pedigree that Alkaloid has in terms of its membership, it goes without say that musicianship is expectedly at a first-class level. In an era where progressive simply means to abide by certain rules, Alkaloid also take this opportunity to smash many of them. Liquid Anatomy is an exercise in exploration when it comes to each individual track, in which they all seem to pull in different directions, yet come out sounding like a unit that is distinctly “Alkaloid.” The opening track, “Kernel Panic,” playfully flirts with more prog rock a la Rush and King Crimson with frenetic bursts of technically impressive extreme metal. “Azagthoth” pulls in a space-y and esoteric direction, complete with some Eastern leanings as well. Of course, there’s some bone-crushing to be had as well, with “Chaos Theory and Practice” executing some of the album’s most immediately gratifying riffs, even if it does also veer off into unexpectedly different waters that are both extreme and atmospheric.

The vocals continue to be a high-water point for the band, with excellent clean vocals serving to springboard the act into more unique territory (see the title track for one such instance) for an act that can generate whirlwinds of extremity. That said, it’s the album’s closing number that provides the most fascinating journey. “Rise of the Cephalopods” is a 20-minute progressive treat, and one that gradually rises, builds and explodes, and feels like a mini-album of its own. It’s an epic track that can bring things to the brink of chaos while still sounding grandiose and strikingly grounded.

Liquid Anatomy further elevates Alkaloid’s status as forward-thinking and unique within the extreme/progressive circles. They can bring about some of the most rumbling death metal imaginable, merge it with eloquently progressive embellishments, and craft something that feels artful in execution. An album that only grows stronger and more intricately designed with each successive listen.

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