The average non-metal observer may not be aware, but the technical death metal scene is a crowded market place nowadays. This state of affairs makes it difficult to stand out from the crowd, but this is precisely what Continuum set out to do on this their second album.
Part of the difficulty in making an impression amongst tech-death fans is listener expectation. If you wound the clock back 15 years it was simpler to blow people away with uber-precise guitar shredding, wacky time signatures and complex poly-rhythms but these are merely expected as standard nowadays. Continuum will be more than aware of this as while this may only be their sophomore effort they actually formed back in 2009. Also, the band members are veterans of this sub-sub-genre with the group’s ranks featuring current and former members of Decrepit Birth, Animosity, Deeds of Flesh and Allegaeon.
Over the years they have undoubtedly picked up a trick or two, and you certainly can’t question the musicianship on display here. Even by the standards of the genre, the guitar work is incredible. Both the speed and precision of lead guitarist Chad Fraser’s riffage is kick-ass, particularly on the title track. The drums from new member Ron Casey are also outstanding. You would be hard-pressed to cite another album which crams as much kick drum into a mere 33 minutes as this record does over its nine brutal tracks.
The main problem here is the band try to cram too much into every track. Take the opening to Into the Void where all the instruments seem to be pulling in what seems like six different directions. To say it can be a bit head-spinning for the listener is an understatement. Ironically for all the obsession with breakneck speed, it is some of the albums (comparatively) slower moments which stand out. One of these standouts is the black metal-style interlude on Autonomic, which gives some respite from the violent onslaught. This track is also not the only time the LP veers into black metal territory as there is more black metal atmospherics in A History Denied. It is in these moments you also sense the band’s emerging identity and gives the album some personality beyond all the familiar, if precisely engineered, technical death metal trappings.
Designed Obsolescence is a visceral, face-melting record and is certainly a worthy entry into the modern tech-death canon. Ultimately though it can’t quite match the best of current genre champions such as Rivers of Nihil and Obscura, that said you feel there is plenty more to come from this brutal Bay Area crew.