If you’ve been fortunate enough to visit the Natural History Museum in New York City, you may have seen their wall chart showing the history of evolution. From dinosaurs all the way up, it is a meandering oak tree of connections and inter-breeding between species that eventually, millions of years later (sorry Christians), results in humans.
Over there on the right-hand side of everything, however, is the majestic Seagull. The gull soars alone. A direct line connects seagulls to dinosaurs with no branches, alterations or changes. Thus, any rational human would interpret the message here: birds are flying dinosaurs.
The same can be said for derivative metal. Chthe’ilist, primarily on their 2012 demo Amechth’ntaas’m’rriachth, is the seagull, while Demilich stands as the dinosaur. The same can be said of Vastum and their direct link to Bolt Thrower (particularly The IVth Crusade). Nucleus, for all that they derive from the Demilichs and Adramelechs of yesteryear, are not simply a straight line, though, which is refreshing. There are industrial influences (primarily in the drumming) and more modern death metal influences interwoven throughout the band’s blueprint. That’s not to say that Nucleus is necessarily better than Chthe’ilist or Vastum, they are just different, and Sentient, their debut LP, is a great beginner’s course in death metal.
“Dosadi,” the second and first proper song following an intro, is a stroll down a heavily wooded path of influences. It opens with a heaping serving of Demilich that’s ladled upon two crisply distorted guitars. But where bands like Demilich and Morbid Angel may have leaned toward a more technical take, Nucleus applies a more straightforward, halting style with blast beats that alternate bass-snare in jovial gaiety, making them feel more like a demonic polka/rockabilly affair than a blast beat. For all the fury in the opening guitar lines, it’s the drums here that own the chaos; percussion akin to contemporaries such as Promulgation of the Fall-era Dead Congregation and Cruciamentum. Following a solo that’s more mood than technicality, Nucleus rolls straight into a Convulse style death-n-roll groove near the song’s two-minute mark. Thus, before the third track opens, Nucleus have already laid a hell-of-an-array of cards on the table.
“Extirpate” reveals small acknowledgments outside the Finnish school, specifically Bolt Thrower and their expansive school of disciples. Here, the rhythm guitar actually plays a progression while the lead guitar simply works off that progression. The track is also the band’s slowest, with the vocals taking on a more gruff, baritone delivery. These elements combine to highlight a respectful amount of Bolt Thrower and Abhorrence, as well as some more contemporary death metal acts. As such, Nucleus are very much looking to the relevance of death metal today and not merely the roots beneath the well-weathered stump. They are tuned into the American school of death metal with plenty of Atheist (Unquestionable Presence-era) and Timeghoul touches thrown in. The latter’s influence is distinct enough that Nucleus covered “The Siege” on their last EP, 2015’s Hegemony. It’s a revealing inclusion, considering Timeghoul are clearly the closest link to Nucleus’ overall vision and slight shift in sound for 2016.
Certainly, as is the case with most death metal today, Nucleus has been influenced by many of the giants of death metal, particularly those that fly the Finnish flag. But, again, they are far from a lame carbon copy. Nucleus throws a sci-fi take on the early bands, but they modify the sound with a sturdy helping of American death metal influences.
Birds may be a living, breathing, flying representation of a dinosaur, but Nucleus is absolutely not. The band has taken over thirty years of death metal and plucked influences from across the board to support their evolution. And with an impressive debut album in the books, expect the breadth of influences to continue to advance as this Chicago based quartet continue to evolve. A careful listening of Sentient will provide even the most basic listener with a look into the dark and chaotic evolution of death metal.