The fundamental issue facing every budding technical death-metal band is how to push past boundaries of songwriting and musicianship (the “technical” part) without sacrificing the grit (the “death metal” part). Some tech-metal bands are felled by sterile recordings. Others find so little breathing room amid the constant time changes that the music is sapped of its aggression and becomes blank, emotionless. As many instrument endorsements as Necrophagist or Psyopus may get, their superhuman virtuosity doesn’t always translate into music with staying power.
Then there’s Neuraxis, a quintet of Canadians that blast through the middle of the tech/grit divide like they never knew it existed. On their ridiculously good fifth album, The Thin Line Between, Neuraxis fire off chops-heavy death-metal etudes kissed with melody, riddled with blastbeats and harnessed by vicious groove. “Wicked” integrates Morbid Angel-style tremolo gallops and Suffocation counterpoint, always keeping momentum at a premium. New guitarist William Seghers has assimilated the Neuraxis house style quickly, his “Deviation Occurs” and “Oracle” transitioning between controlled death-grind segments with breakdowns destined for YouTube tributes forevermore.
If new vocalist Alex Leblanc doesn’t have the range of his predecessor, Ian Campbell, his abstruse lyrical concerns at least fit with the progressivism of the Neuraxis sound. Existential angst has surely had pithier expressions than “This fear of the unknown/ Is common for every soul/ Afflicted by solitude/ Desperate in the absence of certitude,” but Leblanc’s words have that heroically metal cadence that sound just right when grunted over the 5/4 climax of the title track.
With Negativa still without a full-length, Martyr maintaining a lethargic recording schedule and Cryptopsy at its critical nadir, the time is right to crown Neuraxis as the Canadian kings of technical death metal — and enshrine The Thin Line Between as a monumental royal edict.