I remember hearing the Gnostic demo a few years back and salivating at the thought of a future full-length release. Well, that day is upon us with the release of Engineering the Rule on Season of Mist. Gnostic, featuring three members of the now reformed Atheist, Chris Baker (guitar), Steve Flynn (drums), and Jonathan Thompson (bass), are joined by vocalist Kevin Freeman and guitarist Sonny Carson, and come at you with a mix of technical and progressive death metal not unlike Death, Pestilence, early Cynic, and of course Atheist.
Musically, this is one fearsome beast, with plenty of brutal, complex riffery and blazing rhythms flying about the mix at all times. Tunes like "Visceral" and "Isolate Gravity" grab you by the throat and wrench you till your eyeballs pop out, while 'Sleeping Ground" is an absolute crusher from start to finish, massive riffs giving way briefly to some jazzy guitar & bass lines before the monstrous arrangements work their way back in. The longest piece on the CD, "Violent Calm" (clocking in at just under 5 minutes) is a real treat, thunderous drum work battling it out with intricate bass and guitar lines, like the lost bastard child of Death, Rush, and Megadeth. Is it thrash, is it prog, is it jazz, is it death metal? Who knows, but it's damn good! Love sick guitar solos? Look no further than "Life Suffering", and for a "kick you in the teeth' concoction of metal and fusion, there's the insanely complex "Mindlock", a real workout for bassist Thompson.
As good as this material is, I'm not quite sold on vocalist Freeman. His Phil Anselmo styled bark seems better suited for less complex material at times, and though you do get used to him after a while, you have to wonder how Gnostic would sound with a more traditional death metal growler as opposed to Freeman who seems to come more from a hardcore background. Despite this, the music is just so challenging and brutal that I'm giving this a very solid 4 stars. Those of you into technical extreme metal would be well advised to investigate this one.
2) Isolate Gravity
3) Sleeping Ground
5) Wall of Lies
6) Violent Calm
7) Life Suffering
10) Splinters of Change