Denmark has already given us contenders for death metal and thrash albums of the year with Baest’s Necro Sapiens and Artillery’s X. Ghost Iris also stand a good chance of taking the metalcore award at the end of 2021. It’s a strong showing from the land of Harold Bluetooth and might get even better with Martin Haumann’s tech-death project, Mother of All.
For those of you unaware, Haumann is the live drummer for Afsky and Myrkur and has many connections in the industry judging by the personnel involved here. Steve DiGiorgio (Testament, Sadus, Death) joins him on bass, and Hannes Grossman (Necrophagia, Obscura, Triptykon) helped him in the production and engineering chair. Guitar prodigy, Frederik Jensen, completes the line-up, with Haumann handling vocals and lyrics in addition to drums and percussion.
It may sound bedazzling and the technical ability is not in doubt, but Haumann also understands the fundamentals of song-writing and has the wisdom to give us a tech death album that stays on the right side of half-an-hour and keeps most compositions below four minutes. ‘Autumn’ starts like a Dream Theater piece with moody acoustic guitars before Jensen steps on the distortion pedal and launches into a labyrinth of technical thrash rhythms that could be from the new Cryptosis record. How Haumann composed these songs with drums as his primary instrument is a mystery, but the way he alternates between blast beats and double-kick attacks is as impressive as the hardcore rasp of his voice. Listen to ‘We Don’t Agree’ and make way for the elbows and fists you expect to fly past your face in the circle pit. This is heavy and to the point yet also leaves DiGiorgio plenty of room to insert his iconic bass fills.
As a hired gun, Jensen, is a revelation on guitar. ‘Curators of the World’ twists and turns like vintage Coroner, always looking to engage Haumann’s drums in a contest for supremacy. The term technical death metal does not do it justice – you’ll find no self-indulgence here. Haumann likes a heroic gallop to his songs and knows how to insert a triumphant tone into his prog metal meanderings on the excellent title track. ‘Age of the Solipsist’ is the mirror we despise because it tells us what we don’t want to admit – we’re all solipsists in the age of the smartphone and in our tendencies to only engage with people of like-minded views. We should be concerned about the future knowing that many people (also known as morons) get their daily news from Facebook and Twitter. Those self-imposed bubbles we imposed on ourselves narrowed further when Covid-19 came along. How we shake ourselves out of this slumber is a challenge that goes far beyond the catch-all term of ‘mental health’. This is a collective problem that will take years to fix, by which time ‘big tech’ will be even more powerful in our daily lives. It’s an anxiety that haunts the creator of this album.
Indeed, things would be a lot gloomier in another genre of metal, but this is tech death. That means the ode to Death’s Symbolic on ‘At the Edge of a Dream’ and the no-nonsense thrash of ‘Blood Still Owed’ increase the virtuoso stakes further without sacrificing the necessity of effective repetition. The switch to a more power metal vocal approach on ‘Feel the Pain’ is a daring choice to close the album, yet Haumann’s instincts pay dividends. The Age of the Solipsist hits all the right buttons and makes all the right noises.
Tech death may be too complex for its own good, but Mother of All show us that it can also be memorable and just as aggressive as mathcore. Indeed, Martin Haumann can see the wood and the trees.
Release Date: 11/06/2021
Record Label: Black Lion Records
Standout tracks: Autumn, Curators of the World Scope, Age of the Solipsist
Suggested Further Listening: Cryptosis – Bionic Swarm (2021), Death – Symbolic (1995), Harlott – Detritus of the Final Age (2020)