Nepheliumís big push into the metal public eye is that they are the first metal band of note from Dubai. However, their geographic roots arenít something that can actually be heard on the CD. They could be from anywhere, a point that is strengthened by how the band is now located in Canada... and how the album Coils of Entropy was likely recorded there as well.
Besides, shouldnít a bandís merit be about the quality of their work and not the novelty of their origins?
Regardless of where they are from, Nepheliumís debut full-length is on par with what modern death metal has to offer, for better and for worse. The albumís sound is raging and frenetic. Perhaps a little too cold and clinical, but it aptly displays the skills that the band wishes to show off. Thatís quite the route for a death metal band to take: In a genre where music seems to be looked at more like sports than art, itís all about the upholding of technical ability.
For sure, the technical ability heard here is beyond reproach, as is the adherence to the modern death metal stylistic mores... and as are the all-too-common trappings of the genre. For all the density and brutality and rhythm changes, the songs are indistinguishable from one another, being lengthy physical workouts put to music of part after part. The songs seem as if they could start from any point and seem to end arbitrarily. This results in a listening experience that has little taste, and what palpable flavor there is gets numbed out by the preference of musical acrobatics over style.
We listened to the album twice, and what stood out as tasty was one solo and a mid-tempo segue. This is when this genre fails: Technicality and execution are important, but without composition or coherence they mean little. There are seemingly a dime-a-dozen tech death bands that can impress you with their technical ability (which is easier now than ever with studio shortcuts like time correction), but rarer is it to find a band that writes memorable, engaging songs. Tech death nerds will dig; for the rest, this album is a chore. (4/10)
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