Reverbnation Stream/Downloads: Link
I’ve been vaguely aware for some time that Indonesia has a fairly healthy metal scene, but only in the vaguest possible sense; I couldn’t name any bands from memory, but I’d read enough to feel confident in saying that Indonesia has a vibrant extreme metal scene. Deciding to add some first-hand experience to this knowledge, I came across Athematic from Ngawi in the East Java region, who blew me away with the three tracks from thier 2013 demo. I’m not typically a big fan of technical death metal, but Athematic have that certain something that makes them stand out from the crowd. The songs on this demo are full of technical ability for sure, but also those others things that are typically absent in technical metal: song writing, emotion, and above all else, sincerity. This is not death metal that is technical for the sake of it; rather, it comes across as being technical because that is the best way for the band to express themselves.
It doesn’t take long for the band to make their mark, with some very high-tempo riffs and tight drumming, whilst the shouted vocals have an almost hardcore intensity to them, and a spirit that most death metal vocalists lack. The deeper growls are impressive, being used in a manner that benefits the songs. The guitars are a mix of technical “chugging” style riffs and more melodic movements, though it’s never melodic-death – think of how a band such as, say, Origin make use of melody whilst staying incredibly brutal and technical and you’ll have an idea of what Athematic are doing. There’s even moments where, if they were in a different tuning, the guitars would come across as being black metal influenced.
The biggest surprise of the demo comes at the start of the second track, “Labirin Hitam”, which opens with a sampled orchestral piece. It’s very overblown and dramatic, and in stark contrast to what follows. I’m not convinced that it works. The opening aside, it’s a superb track that never sits still, and is constantly changing tempo and emphasis. It also allows the band to demonstrate that they know when to ease off the pure brutality, and let the song soar.
I generally prefer my death metal to be more straight-forward, but Athematic are that rare thing: a tech-death band with actual songs. Too many similar artists make the mistake of using their songs as an excuse to show off their skill on their instruments, and whilst arpeggio sweeps and what have you can be very impressive, they are no substitute for good song-writing. Athematic might not be quite as technical as some of their peers, but based on the three tracks on this demo they are certainly good song-writers, and that counts for far more. I’ve found myself repeatedly humming sections of these songs since first hearing them, which should say it all really. Definitely a band to keep an eye on, and one that may appeal beyond the usual tech-death crowd.