Look, I love the bestial black/death symposium that’s in full swing right now as much as the next guy, but it’s gotten to the point where the blowout is stacked to the rafters with enough single-initialed, hooded serpents that we’re all basically one accidental elbow-bump away from having our limbs severed, carved and used for upside-down crosses in greasy album insert pics. AND I WANT TO LIVE, DAMN YOU.
That’s partly what lead to the late entry of Polyptych and their sophomore release Illusorium into my top 20 of 2014 list: It’s a surprisingly refreshing slice when stacked next to all the cavernous death-devilry currently swooping about. Thanks to the added “technical” stamp thrown into the mix, the overall sound conveyed here aligns itself more with the late 90s-era Immolation blueprint, as opposed to the Blasphemy adherence many of their more sadistic cousins demonstrate. “Technical,” but not tech-death, mind you. In other words: Progressive. Is that really such a bad word? You can be progressive without being Dream Theater, you know.
Anyway, the fellows behind Polyptych could probably throw down with any number of the tech-death players out there, but their chosen brew is less bouncy/frenetic and more dark/doomy. The churning is merciless and severe, and there’s a tendency to turn things on a dime, comparable to Immolation’s Failures for Gods, or the adventurous nature of The Chasm’s Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm at times, but with more of a blackened edge.
That’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it? Rumbling, deadly-heavy, gloomily melodic, and a flash of speedy vitriol at the midpoint before returning to the wallop that initially kicked things off. Each tune fashions a similar approach together that stresses a lush complexity that’s harsh, but melodic without being unnecessarily noodly. Just a splendidly motley concoction that scores from start to finish.
Also helping to push Illusorium into the “how the hell did I miss this?” pile is the fact that the band sets the bar with regard to DIY fundamentals. They’re unsigned – something I trust will change in the near future – yet absolutely nothing about Polyptych or this record comes across as hayseed. The record’s mix, via 90s death metal sound-mavens Morrisound Studios, is robust and allows each player ample opportunity under the spotlight; Chris Kiesling/Misanthropic Art (Hooded Menace, Ketzer, Black Breath) did a phenomenal job with the album artwork; and hell, even that beauty of a band logo hits your eyeballs courtesy of designer extraordinaire Christophe Szpaidel, a fellow responsible for over 7,000 monikers, beginning with Emperor. I haven’t a clue how Polyptech managed to afford giving all these components such a blue-chip touch, but it most certainly adds to the overall appeal.
There’s well-enough room in this big bloody ocean for all of metal’s unique off-shoots, but it’s an album such as this that skillfully executes a different slant compared to what’s currently blazing in death that makes Chicago’s Polyptych stand out. If you’re looking for something dark, complex and relentless that leans more on the death/black end of the spectrum than it does black/death, Illusorium is definitely worthy of attention.