Hailing from the mile-high city of Denver, Colorado, indie band Apotheon plays some of the most complex and melodic death metal I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. Their music goes from face-melting one moment to captivating the next, sometimes within the same track. They create songs of incredible depth and intelligence, while still delivering bone-crushing riffs and brutal vocals that will satisfy the pickiest of death metal fans.
Formed in 2014, Apotheon is made up of five accomplished musicians – Reece Deeter (Vocals), Fernando del Valle (Guitar), Ian Burnside (Guitar), Ibrahim Jimenez (Bass) and Andrew Morris (Drums). All band members participate in writing the music, and the lyrics are written by Deeter. They released their debut four-track EP The Ascension in 2016, and in June of this year, dropped their second EP Mechanically Consumed.
The EP is rather unconventional in that it contains four new tracks – one instrumental and three with vocals – plus instrumental versions of the three, for a total of seven tracks. But even with only four original tracks, the three with vocals are all of epic proportions, two of them running more than seven minutes in length. As a result, the EP feels more like a full album in scope.
The opening track “Premonition” is just that: a brief but powerful instrumental that serves as an introduction to the dynamic and multi-faceted music stylings of Apotheon, and sets the tone for the three monster tracks to come. A repeating circular riff is backed by shredded guitars, hammering bass and percussion. At the one and a half minute mark, the track slows down as moody synths are added that replicate a harpsichord, strings and a xylophone, among other instruments.
The track scarcely ends before we’re hit with the full-frontal assault of thunderous riffs, bass and drums of “Tyken’s Rift.” Deeter growls his way through the seven-minute track, screaming the lyrics that speak to mankind’s need to rid ourselves of all the artifice and bullshit we’ve bought into:
The human mind can only take so much.
Break the rift or be trapped.
An unnatural state, awake amongst the drained.
So strange, so restless. Wake. Repeat.
At song’s end, he wails “To break free, there must be release” as the instrumentals rise to a blazing crescendo.
The band’s skill at combining totally different rhythmic stylings into one song is beautifully demonstrated on “Mechanically Consumed.” The track starts off with a delicate synth and foreboding violin strokes, then suddenly erupts into a cacophony of wailing guitars, staccato breakdown riffs and Deeter’s screaming and guttural vocals. At the halfway mark, the track abruptly shifts to a melodic 50-second-long interlude, where keyboards, xylophone and percussion conjure up images of a macabre carnival ride, before death metal instrumentals and vocals return for the outro.
Shredded machine-gun riffs, explosive drums and bits of harpsichord dominate on the monumental “Flesh Machine.” Deeter fires off savage death metal growls at a jaw-dropping pace, a testament to his astonishing vocal dexterity and control. He screams the vivid lyrics about a life born not from a higher power, but from our own imagination:
An amalgamation of body parts lowered into the mold
The skeleton is slowly embedded, Installed, this is your vessel
Enter the flesh machine
Assembled, built around a luminous pilot
Light drowned by wet flesh
Senses activated. Nervous system brought to life
Spasms cause convulsions, vision online
An outside light source initiates birth
This is this is your life. Enter the flesh machine. Enter reality.
At 2:45 the tempo abruptly shifts into a soothing, dreamy soundscape of gentle guitars, percussion and sweeping synths. My take is that it symbolizes the hope of living the existence of our dreams. Then, just as quickly, at 3:38 it erupts into a barrage of machine-gun riffs, swirling guitars, battering-ram drums and Deeter’s brutal vocals admonishing us to take control of our own reality and create the life we yearn to have.