Nucleus – Sentient (Unspeakable Axe Records)

Wednesday, 9th March 2016
Rating: 7.5/10

Death metal’s cerebral core, hereby represented by Chicago crew Nucleus, is ultimately what keeps the style moving forward when so many want to hurl it back to the dark ages, or whatever time of convenience and/or comfort. Formed in 2012 and with a handful of demos and EPs under the belt, the band was snapped up by Unspeakable Axe, a sub-label of Dark Descent Records. As it’s common knowledge, Dark Descent (and Unspeakable Axe) are on quite the winning streak these days, led by Horrendous, Crypt Sermon, and Thantifaxath. For safe measure, add Nucleus to the list.

The band’s Sentient debut could be seen as a sci-fi mash-up of Atheist and Incantation. (Actually, there’s no disputing the science fiction element, for it is the band’s main lyrical inspiration.) The cross-section of technicality and simplicity is not a simple one to navigate, although Nucleus from the jump, appear to have their house in order. The quick, dashing jabs of “Dosadi” lead off into more treacherous territory ala “Swarm” and the album’s best jam, “Cube.” And as a sign of saving their most expansive cut for last, “Starflyer” emerges as Sentient’s most adventurous cut, with the band further plunging its sound into the territorial doom depth of the netherworld. (Extra kudos to the unearthly bellows of Dave Muntean.)

Nucleus’s science fiction angle (a breath of fresh air from the typical zombie-gazing lyrical approach of many DM bands), almost becomes secondary when grappling with the sonic seesaw on display throughout Sentient. As noted, Nucleus appear to be equally adept at technical mind-melds as they are lapping up (or “languishing up”) those dastardly doom plunges. It results in Sentient clocking in as a promising debut.

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