Hey there tech fiends, it’s that time of the week again. Before we dive into today’s focus, here’s the usual weekly reminder that if you’re looking for even more sick bands, all prior editions of this series can be perused here.
While I did list the prior A Million Dead Birds Laughing EP, Umbilical Dystrophy / Air Missile Defense Battle Lab on my 2016 year-end best of feature here, I realize now I had yet to actually cover the Australia-based group in written form outside of praising them far and wide to anyone who would listen ever since I heard their debut release, “Force Fed Enlightenment”, in 2011. So, that time is now, prepare yourself for a mindfuck beyond the level of what you’d typically discuss when using that term for metal music. This is beyond all of that.
I knew they had a new release on the horizon, so, knowing To The Ether, their new album, would release yesterday on February 11th, I set this week’s column aside to intake the new release and say a bit about it in the short amount of time I’ve had to digest it. While it’s not totally fitting, the best reference point for what To The Ether has to offer (and the crowd it may appeal to) I can give is they mix technical death metal and grindcore in a wide mix of ways similar only to a few other oddball acts like Cephalic Carnage, Pyrrhon, Sulaco, and so forth. They have that rare blend of immense skill, an expansive hard-to-explain sound, and inherit quirkiness that makes them able to explore whatever odd dish of ideas they wish in however they wish it to come together. Even as a fan of the band, I have a hard time fathoming how a group hellbent on pushing the envelope and making truly fucked up music, keeps going further and further into ever weirder and harder-to-explain territory with each new release. Yet here we are with To The Ether and a whole new level of mindfuckery to explore within it.
What might surprise people is, you may very well know some of the music made by members of A Million Dead Birds Laughing without knowing them yet. The hope here is to correct that, but, to catch any of you up to speed, the group contains guitarists Ben Boyle and Nick Rackham (on bass here for AMDBL) of one of my favorite Australian death metal acts Hadal Maw, alongside Ne Obliviscaris drummer Dan Presland. Furthering their shared built up chemistry, Ben and Dan are a part of supergroup Vipassi, and Ben is also a part of the killer Australian tech-death act Infinite Density as well.
To The Ether is also a good example of why I don’t do track-by-track reviews, because, the opener itself, “Martyrdom in the Fourth Dimension” is such a volatile and eclectic force that to explain it in depth is a bit worthless. But, for the uninitiated, it’s in line with their usual fuckery, shifting on a dime between technical death metal, soul-scarring dissonant death, black metal, grindcore, soundscape inflected passages and interludes, and the usual heaping hell load of experimental tendencies that lie at the heart of this projects brilliance.
The track that follows, sole early single “Black Hole Spirit” is just another in a string of confusing and mind-melting sonic adventures here, each requiring more than just our attention, but an open mind and desire to hear these kinds of styles and sounds re-organized in a new manner beyond anything you’ve ever heard. While some tracks may “fit” a bit more squarely in certain realms like the dissonant death-grind focused madness on track three, “Lit” the near-hallucinatory vibe driven clean vocal chanting parts interspersed in it is a great example of the band’s desire to always throw curveballs even if I can easily see it being the kind of thing where some feel those these added odd ideas don’t enhance it. To me, and I’d suspect for most their fans, this is why we tune in, for that extra something different that A Million Dead Birds Laughing always has in spades every time.
The inviting calm that kicks off the closing title track “To The Ether” is maybe their rare less frenetic track here, but, it’s a great way for them to go out. Rounding out the equation as yet another facet within the number of different directions and ideas the release weaves through.
As always, but, quite possibly moreso here on To The Ether then anything prior from the band, the music is so goddamn out there and alien to normal ideas of how sound/genres are structured and typically align in music we’ve heard prior, that it’s best to hear this mindfuck for yourself and form your own view. It is not for everyone, but, for those who connect with what they’re doing, To The Ether is an incredible journey showcasing a unique approach to death metal on the technical end of things that defies most conventions and defies easy categorization. You be the judge after hitting play below, and if you’re into it, orders can be placed through the A Million Dead Birds Laughing Bandcamp Page. Be sure to follow the group over on their Facebook Page.