Death Engine‘s latest release is called Ocean and indeed it bears some resemblance to the music by the powerful Post-Metal collective of the same name as the album title! Nevertheless, there is also some Chino Moreno in it, which shall not be neglected. Therefore we can affirm that this record is somewhere between Post-Metal and Blackened Shoegaze, for the Deftones were never Nu-Metal but hard, heavy Shoegaze. Just listen to White Pony - Ocean is like a crossing between that album and Precambrian!
When the opener ”Hyperion” kicks in after a few noisey lines at the beginning, there is a sweltering moment, when little me is expecting to hear a kick like Machine Head’s ”Ten Ton Hammer” but of course, this is not a groove-metal relic (albeit a great one, if it followed that track) but a very modern sounding band which also writes songs for the 21st century; that means for a century which is mostly determined by the mash-up it delivers.
And from the beginning of the next one, the (presumable) Deftones-affinity of the band based in Brittany, the Western-most part of France, a peninsula surrounded by water on three sides – so in that sense, the record title surely makes sense. Many Bretons are very proud of their cultural autonomy, which is based in the Celtic roots of the region and which is also noticeable in the number of people in Western Brittany which still speak Breton today. That autonomy is of course a partial one as France is a state centered around Paris, but many regions have their very own cultural history and are thus somewhat unique. That can also be said about Death Engine and their megalithic mix of roots and origins.
When listening to Ocean, there will come that moment, when you also feel the Deftones-affinity best: ”Pulled Down”, the third track, has a lot of the elements that make for a great song by Chino and Company. Crunchy, yet never stupidly heavy riffs, a midtempo-beat that is shifty upwards as well as downwards, an unbelievable hook and these underlying Shoegaze structures that make up some of the best songs written by the guys from Sacramento. That vocalist/guitar player Mikaël listened to some of Chino’s best moments is clearly audible in his phrasing and vocalizing. By and large, this track is one of the candidates for any good playlist for 2023!
However, don’t think that their influences end there, because there are also allusions to the most defining Post-Metal-band ever, Neurosis, who were widely loved for their rambunctious tribal parts and one can find something pretty similar on ”Lack”, the fourth track. Here they Bretons are able to give us the same level of intensity and of (seemingly) two drum kits being beaten simultaneously. But as Death Engine are no clone or trying to follow a certain blueprint – they knock the density up a bit, which places them somewhere between Neurosis’ Post-Metal and Post-Hardcore in the Plebeian Grandstand-sense.
That shiftiness is one of the nicest assets of the band because with some immensely intriguing guitar work they are able to give the whole record a very homogeneous sound and yet do not shy away from displaying their idols openly. A track like ”Mess” shows that really well, as it has some tribal elements, some slower passages where a kind of Shoegazey Post-Hardcore shines through and which is clearly unique and 100% Death Engine.
When we look back onto 2023 in roughly twelve months, we might not be able to speak about Post-Metal without mentioning Death Engine and Ocean, because this is one hellishly good comeback after nearly eight years. Please don’t make us wait till 2031!!