VERSUS: Epitaph vs. Bleed The Future

VERSUS: Epitaph vs. Bleed The Future

Welcome to Versus. The series where we look at two albums in metal, comparing them to each other, and see which one was the better record.

In this edition of Versus, we are diving into the intricate and heavy realm of technical death metal. A German band, who only released two albums, created proficient death metal, and their last album being a technical swansong and a defining record for the genre. The other, a Canadian band skyrocketing into popularity with intricate guitar and bass playing, insanely fast drumming and impressively fast growl vocals. Grab your sheet music, your books on music theory and scales, and prepare for a matchup I'm calling "The Technicality of Brutality".

In this corner, we have German tech-deathers Necrophagist with their second and final album, 2004's Epitaph. Though only releasing two albums in the band's twelve year career, this band would be influential in technical death metal with this release, along with the band's debut record Onset To Putrefaction. With impressive technical guitar playing, tempo changes, and impressive drumming, Necrophagist would become legendary and a defining name in the genre. What does this album bring to this matchup? How does it stack up against their opponents? Let's find out what makes Epitaph a classic and a fitting closing album for the band.

Opening the album is "Stabwound". With a pulsing blast beat opening drum section by Hannes Grossmann, into amazing shredding guitar and bass, into vocalist/guitarist Muhammed Suiçmez opening guttural growls, the song is relentless in its speed and fretboard hopping guitar playing. The song has slowed down tempo sections, into flurrying sweeping guitars and epic sounding harmonies. All while Grossmann and bassist Stephan Fimmers' rhythm section brings the driving speed and pacing back to full gear after short guitar solos. The song flies by with break-neck speed and impressive musicianship throughout.

Following that is the slowed down, almost sludgy opening of "The Stillborn One". With double bass and a slower riff, it almost gives off a Suffocation feel to the song in a more slamming death metal sound. The drums get more progressive and intricate as the pacing picks up, along with nice bass flurry sections by Fimmers. With ambient and dissonant guitar sections, coinciding with a slowed down riff and progressive drums, the song begins to mutate and get faster. The riff picks up and then BAM! right into blast beats and a thrash metal style riff at the three quarters mark. Almost side-swiping the listener with the sudden and aggressive tempo change. "Ignominious & Pale" continues the impressive musicianship of guitarists Suiçmez and Christian Münzner. The impressiveness, speed and technicality of the opening riff, all while delivering the intricate pacing and tempo changes is impressive. Almost giving them the same impressive riffage, soloing and progressive know-how of the likes of the legendary Death in their playing.

"Diminished To B" has another impressive, fretboard hopping opening riff. With thrash metal style riffing, infused with death metal and almost neo-classical proficiency, the song is just impressive. The band is just going full tilt into the pacing and frantic tempo slow down/speed up, especially in the drums sections. Frantic and all over the place, but still on tempo and an impressive playing style. The album's title track continues the band's unmatched speed and technical skills of their instruments. With unbridled riffing throughout, with a just as impressive rhythm section, it is understandable how you can hear the influence of this album on bands like Beyond Creation and Gorod. "Only Ash Remains" opens with one of the most impressive bass sweeps sections I have heard in a long time. The proficiency and flawlessness in the playing is just outstanding, and then going into the main riff and blasting drums is just a headbanging classic. With the album's closer "Symbiotic in Theory" continuing the thrashy, technical and progressive opening riff, the song is just giving me carpal tunnel from trying to process the speed and technical prowess the band delivers on the track as this technical death metal swansong comes to a blistering end.

In the opposite corner, we have Canada's rising tech-death band Archspire with their fourth album, 2021's Bleed The Future. Following the band's 2017 album Relentless Mutation, the band stepped up the technical intensity with this release and would rise as one of the torchbearers of the new wave of technical death metal with fellow bands The Zenith Passage, Inferi and Cytotoxin. Taking influence from bands like Origin and their opponents today, the band's proficiency and musical talent is impressive, while also heavy and devastating at the same time. Let's see how they stack up against their German opponents.

Opening the album is in my opinion the best track off the album, and my favorite track from the band themselves, with "Drone Corpse Aviator". With a dizzying opening riff into POUNDING drums by Spencer Prewett, the song just goes straight for the jugular in its speed and brutality. With the impressive speed and deep gutturals of the band's vocalist Oliver Rae Aleron, which makes him one of the standouts of this band and a signature element to the band's sound. Almost earning him the nickname of "The Busta Rhymes of Death Metal" with his ability to growl and speak so fast and still maintain a deep growl is a feat in death metal. With the impressive guitar riff machines of Dean Lamb and Tobi Morelli, these two know how to bounce off each other very well and showing off their technical skills and music theory on the song. Another example of musical showmanship is bassist Jared Smith on this song, he does an impressive job matching the speed and fury of his fellow guitarists, while adding a pulsing and driving intensity with Prewett's relentless drumming on the song. All the way to the chugging, slowed down riff with Aleron's guttural growls, it is one HELL of an opening track for this album.

The following track "Golden Mouth of Ruin" continues with the impressive start/stop, speed up/slow down pacing of drums and guitars with Aleron's unrelenting speed growls. Lamb and Morelli's dual harmony section into the verse section is almost entrancing before being broken to a quickened, chugging yet intricate riff. Prewett's technical and progressive drumming on the track is just remarkably fast and complex and shows how he is a drummer to be on the lookout for with his impressive speed and efficiently matching the complexity of the riff. This band knows how to deliver speed, heaviness and breakdowns that would make any tech-death fan happy. Even their merch even promotes the motto of "Stay Tech". "Abandon The Linear" opens with a nice building guitar section and vocal/drumming matching the slowed down pace of the song. Driving double bass over atmospheric guitars and chugs brings the band back to one hundred miles an hour. With frantic, rapid fire vocals and a matching guitar to boot, along with a nice little bass solo, the song is just a music teacher's dream with so many layers of intricate playing, tempo changes, key changes and just layer upon layer of instrumentation.

The other standout track is the album's title track. Another unbridled fast and technical opening, the song is a riff machine in its opening sprint. Drums are fast and driving, guitars slower, building tension into the chugging breakdown. Aleron's vocal delivery is peak on this track. With guttural lows and impressive rapid-fire lyrical delivery, it is impressive how he can deliver so quickly and not be out of breath or lose his growl depth, which is hard to do. The riff at the halfway mark into the slowed down, almost ambient guitar riff sounds so good. Giving the listener reprieve before the riff cycles back around during the blasting conclusion of the track. This song is a neck breaker with how heavy it sounds live and the intensity the band delivers, making you wanna bang your head so hard and fast to the insane drumming or chugging riff. This song is just unrelenting speed and heaviness.

Archspire's motto/slogan that appears on a lot of the band's merch

"Drain of Incarnation" has a nice and beautiful opening guitar section, showing an almost neo-classical feel to the play style, accompanied with building electric guitar behind it. The song sets a building effect with the drums before the song picks up the pace, returning to the band's unforgiving speed and technicality. The band just doesn't know when to take its foot off the gas once it gets going, so you have to be prepared for the long haul of the band's intense heaviness and delivery on this record and live. Songs like "Acrid Canon" open with wailing and sweeping guitars into tremolo-like guitar playing, matched with Prewett's insanely fast drumming and driving guitars from Lamb and Morelli throughout the song. The album's closer "A.U.M. (Apeiron Universal Migration)" opens with the band making fun of their own intense and reckless sound, before flipping the caller the finger and going right for the gusto. This was an INTENSE album of unrelenting speed and heaviness and is one of my all time favorite releases from not only the band, but the genre itself.

So after we close our textbooks on music theory and try to comprehend what we listened to, who won this battle of the technical? In my opinion, although I am a HUGE fan of Archspire, for me the winner is Necrophagist with Epitaph. Epitaph is an all around great record, leaning more towards the progressive death metal sound of bands like Death and Arsis. And both records are almost perfect, with no bad tracks or dips in quality of song, and there is no question the musical skills both bands have. Overall, Epitaph wins by a VERY, almost by a hair like difference. Bleed The Future is still a jaw dropping technical marvel of modern day death metal, and is one of the new faces of death metal and a band that deserves a listen if you are a fan of technical death metal.

Do you agree with my decision? Who do you think should have won this battle? Cast your vote on the poll below, leave your comments on our social media, and your suggestions who you think should step in the ring next. I’m Justin, your friendly neighborhood metalhead, for This Day in Metal and this has been Versus.

VERSUS: Epitaph vs. Bleed The Future - Online Poll -
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