Replacire is a five-piece technical death metal band from Boston (lumping them into that genre needs to be qualified — see below.) Do Not Deviate is their second album, following on from 2013’s The Human Burden. It continues in the same direction as their début, not adding much in the way of new elements to their sound while remaining a fit and strong release.
One might tend to think of tech-death as the realm of dizzying lead guitars in the place of crunchy riffs, with bands like Obscura and Exocrine exemplifying that aspect. Listening to Do Not Deviate, however, makes it necessary to (re-)consider exactly what ‘technical death metal’ really is, because Replacire do not sound like that. They make ample use of crunch and confine the guitar fireworks to the soloing, much as Chuck Schuldiner did in Death. Nobody would deny Chuck his ‘technical’ status, thus following in his line should not exclude Replacire from the same honour.
The start-stop-start-stop motif Replacire indulge in on every song on Do Not Deviate might make some younger readers think of mathcore, and they would be wrong. One must recall the great technical thrash bands of the 1980s, like Mekong Delta. Voivod had the same song stutter, and Replacire also make use of many chords that evoke said band. These features, again, put Replacire in the tradition of tech-death. But they do not simply ape other bands within their genre. Rather, the band incorporates technical thrash elements into what is an otherwise almost pure death metal experience.
We use the word ‘almost’ here because vocalist Evan Anderson Berry makes labeling Replacire a tech-death band a problem when he belts it out with his clean vocals. His death growls possess an appropriate level of ferocity, but his singing clearly lacks power, and not only in the way that death growls can be said to be inherently more powerful than clean singing. His voice just does not have the puissance needed to make it hit home; this would be Do Not Deviate’s only weak point.
Replacire know how to write, so these are good. Do Not Deviate has a lot of winners, the title track not the least among them. “Horsestance” starts the album off with suitable aggression, and things stay in this mode for the better part of Do Not Deviate’s eleven song, 39 minute duration. Said song has a repeating musical motif, both within the excellent guitar playing and the aforementioned, less-than-excellent clean singing. It is later reiterated in the brief instrumental interlude “Reprise”, and once again in the album’s closer “Enough For One”. Those latter two songs fail to excite on the same level as “Horsestance”, though.
Instead, songs like “Act Re-enact”, “Cold Repeater”, “Moonbred Chains” and “Spider Song” carry Do Not Deviate. And even though the superfluous keyboard work weighs down “Enough For One”, a song with an otherwise majestic Voivod riff, just like penultimate track “Traveling Through Abyss” does little to help the album end on a high note, Replacire demonstrate their superior writing skill by making an album with roughly the same groove throughout sound fresh and exciting for most of its runtime.
Do Not Deviate shows a young band full of original ideas and the skills to put most of them across just fine. Tech-death fans will want to give Replacire a listen, especially those who have minds open enough to tolerate the moments of clean singing.
Notable Tracks: “Horsestance”; “Act Re-enact”; “Cold Repeater”; “Moonbred Chains”; “Do Not Deviate”
FFO: Death, Ulcerate, Voivod, Mekong Delta