Samskaras – Lithification – EP Review

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Artist: Samskaras

Album Title: Lithification

Label: Independent Release

Date of Release: 26 October 2018

It is turning into an obsession now. Every time I receive an email with a combination of the words ‘technical’, ‘progressive’ or ‘death metal’ attributed to it, I have a sudden urge to check it out. I’m beginning to think that I should refer to 2018 as the year the Man of Much Metal gave over his soul to progressive death metal. Not that this a bad thing, you understand, just a little unexpected.

Not all of the emails I receive with these descriptors in the title are a hit – some are pretty awful if I’m honest. But there are certainly enough diamonds in the rough to keep me entertained and interested in what has to be one of the best subgenres of heavy metal out there.

And what is it about the Canadians? The sheer amount of this kind of music coming from the North American country is just incredible. And, based on this four-track EP from Samskaras, the trend doesn’t seem like it is going to end any time soon. The title of this release is ‘Lithification’ and it comes from a rather talented Montreal-based duo, namely vocalist/guitarist/bassist Eric Burnet (Unburnt, Derelict) and drummer Alexandre Dupras (Teramobil, Unhuman).

Now I’ll be honest and admit that I’ve never checked out any music from these guys before but that might be a bit of a mistake. There is a lot of talent and professionalism on display on this EP, demonstrating that Samskaras certainly have the potential for bigger and better things in the future. At least, I hope so.

As always with EPs it can be a bit tricky to fully get under the skin of a band but nevertheless, what I can ascertain from ‘Lithification’ is that Burnet and Dupras are keen on injecting as much variety into their music, whilst staying true to their core death metal sound. As such, what you will find is that the ubiquitous blast beats, gruff vocals and scything riffs lay a very foundation upon which many other elements are laid. The press release references the likes of Cryptopsy, Gorguts and Despised Icon and these are all helpful references up to a point. Indeed the impressive production owes much to Cryptopsy’s Chris Donaldson who, at the Grid Studio, was involved in the recording process.

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Opening track, ‘Reconciliation’ lures us in with an intriguing mid-paced melody full of menace but with a catchy, memorable feel, a little reminiscent to the kind of thing Textures might deliver. However, it isn’t long before the track abruptly changes tack. The pedal is depressed, the speed increases and the guitars and drums take it in turns to batter the listener, trading frenetic drum blasts and sharp, precise riffs. Burnet spits his gruff diatribes with forceful intent but in marches that opening melody to remind us that Samskaras have a sophisticated edge, not always relying on brute strength. But the duo are not done as there’s another change to come. The vocals take on a much raspier tone and there’s the strong sense of something more black metal in the air, reinforced by the almost warp-speed tumult at the death. At this point, the references to the likes of Anaal Nathrakh and Wood of Ypres in the press release begin to make more sense.

‘As Warriors’ begins in much more combative fashion than its predecessor, devouring everything in its path with bulldozing, chunky riffs and some killer drumming. The measured pace provides a certain groove that gets the head nodding, albeit interspersed with moments of all-out speed. And then, at the mid-section, everything falls away to allow hushed vocals to float over lush and beautiful acoustic guitar melodies, evoking a sense of progressive, vaguely jazzy intent underlined by the prominent dancing bass lines. It’s a welcome and clever change of pace that turns a solid song into a great song.

Arguably the most straightforward brutal death metal composition on this EP is ‘Alignment’, which throws plenty more great riffs and engaging rhythms our way in the process, not to mention a gravelly vocal delivery in the latter stages that calls to mind Gorefest at their finest.

Finally on this all-too-short EP is ‘À Deux Mains’, whose unique selling point is the fact that the lyrics are sung in French. It feels odd at first to hear the soft and musical ‘language of love’ being given the full guttural approach but it works. It’s a ferocious slab of tech death too, with frequent yet smoothly transitioned changes of pace alongside some understated instrumental gymnastics in evidence.

I have listened to ‘Lithification’ upwards of seven times in a very short space of time and it has yet to lose its appeal. At less than 20 minutes, it serves as an excellent window into the world of Samskaras, although I have to admit I’d have liked this to have been a full album. It remains to be seen whether Eric Burnet and Alexandre Dupras can maintain this high level of musicianship over the course of a full-length release However, taking ‘Lithification’ on its merits, it is undeniably a great, if truncated dose of tech death metal with progressive tendencies.

The Score of Much Metal: 8

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:

2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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