“Oh, wow” were literally the first two words out of my mouth when I hit play on this behemoth of bombast. Fans of Origin, death metal, technical precision and speed will have found their new canon in Unparalleled Universe, the band’s Nuclear Blast debut. Seriously aggressive and technical are obvious descriptors for any of Origin’s work but on this release they really seem to have rejuvenated their thirst for universal conquest. I don’t know if it was a shift in labels or perhaps just the overall healthy competitive nature of the death metal scene in 2017 but Origin are going to be giving a lot of bands a run for their money this year.
Starting off with a song that sticks to the tried and true Origin formula, the mid-western maulers unleash two minutes of hell with “Infinitesimal to the Infinite” (try saying that as fast as the band plays). Paul Ryan employs some of his trademark blisteringly-fast arpeggio sweep runs over the machine-like blasts and double bass work of drumming god, John Longstreth. These two were meant to play with each other; their technical prowess and bludgeoning rhythm often lock in as much as their bass player Mike Flores does. It’s a very cool system to have a rotating cast of rhythmic players that can capably trade off.
More often than not the bass does some standout work and contributes some very interesting lines, as in the notable “Accident & Error”. It has bass noodling that challenges the guitar playing in its complexity and delivery. How often are you able to say that about the bass player of any death metal band? Of any “rock” based band at all really? It’s a component of Origin that does not fall on deaf ears. This leaves us with the maniacal and convincingly terrifying Jason Keyser on vocal duties. His range is so vast that he is able to carry the vocal role of this band without ever getting boring, his mid-tone throat growls being the strongest of his voice.
There are some really nice varied elements in tempo on Origin’s latest technical death metal masterpiece too; this isn’t something Origin is really known for. Crushingly heavy and overly dense at times, one of the closing tracks “Burden of Prescience” is a standout in their catalogue that runs all the gamuts of the metal dictionary, from speedy death metal to thick sludge. Again, this isn’t something I typically think of when it comes to Origin. To me, Origin always meant raw speed and powerful hate fueled aggression played with extreme precision. That hasn’t been dropped, but instead a few new cards are obviously up these headbangers’ sleeves.
Planet Sized would not be a big enough sounding term to describe the scope of this masterpiece. It’s got great focus and delivery in its songwriting. The performances of each member of Origin are just top notch. Most importantly perhaps, is that everything has a point and a reason to be there. With so much going on during this album it is amazing that they can keep the standard of quality up the whole time. Tracks like the brilliant “Cascading Failures, Diminishing Returns” or “Truthslayer” with its epic drum intro seem like they will never get old. Even the strange haunting guitars in the middle of “Invariance Under Transformation” bring something new to the table.
That being said, it may be on “Unequivocal” that Origin really throw down the gauntlet and say “hey man, we’re here and we’re not a band to be fucked with”. It is instantly catchy and yet somehow still unforgivingly evil and brutal all at the same time. It’s something that you can tell Origin have been working towards for years and somehow it just all came together for them on Unparalleled Universe. The riffs have melodies to them, something Ryan and crew have been able to pull off before, but in my opinion they have never been crafted in such a distinct and memorable way.
Honestly, it’s really impressive what these veterans do with a tried and true genre that many felt was on its way out a decade ago. This record should give pause to many fans of the genre as they are literally blown out of their seat by the intensity and memorable nature of Unparalleled Universe. It’s an impressive feat for any band and I’m sure that in time it will be recognized as Origin’s finest output to date. Just wait until you hear the outro for “Unequivocal” – you will feel so epic and triumphant. It’s a great moment on an unparalleled release.