Dischordia are a progressive death metal trio, an extremely rare thing. Death metal is commonly thought to require at least two guitarists at all times, just to keep the complex scaffolding of riffs from collapsing on itself. But somehow these three dudes from Oklahoma City—guitarist/backing vocalist Keeno, bassist/lead vocalist Josh Turner, and drummer Josh Fallin—pull it off. Their new album, Thanatopsis, is a complex, aggressive record with a thick, forceful sound and a conceptual coherence that carries the listener along on a nearly hour-long journey without ever bogging down into tedium.

Thanatopsis is the band’s second full-length album and fourth release overall; it was preceded by 2011’s Creator, Destroyer EP, 2013’s Project 19, and 2015’s Sources EP, which contained versions of Decapitated‘s “Three Dimensional Defect,” Thrice‘s “All the World is Mad,” the Dillinger Escape Plan‘s “Sugar Coated Sour,” and Tom Waits‘s “Don’t Go Into That Barn.”

That’s a pretty broad range of influences to claim, but listening to Thanatopsis, only Decapitated (the original lineup, not the one lone survivor Wacław “Vogg” Kiełtyka is keeping going these days) seems like an obvious link. The first three songs on the album—”The River,” “The Road,” and “The Ruin”—function as a 16-minute suite that Turner claimed in a recent interview “takes on different views within a storyline about seeing death in different ways.” They vary slightly, but have strong commonalities, namely churning riffs (the guitar and bass are timbrally close enough that the effect is basically two downtuned guitars) and complex, militaristic—if somewhat jazzily mixed—drums.

The next song, “The Curator,” displays a different influence: Meshuggah. Indeed, it’s almost a Meshuggah tribute, borrowing the Swedish band’s off-tempo riffing, massively thick downtuned-to-the-point-of-being-detuned guitars, and hoarse, one-note vocal tirades. This style stays in place on the next track, “22°,” too, and returns on “Bone Hive.”

The music on Thanatopsis isn’t all shouty aggression, though. “An Unlikely Story” downshifts in its final minute or so, heading into a zone of delicate piano, atmospheric synths and jazz-fusion bass noodling. Similarly, “Bone Hive” stops dead almost exactly at its midpoint, so Keeno can play some clean, almost pastoral jazz guitar, which Turner repeatedly punctuates with distorted bass bombs. When the song proper resumes, it’s a little slower and choppier, taking nearly a minute to build back up to a groove. And another interlude of jazz-fusion bass twiddling interrupts the album’s nearly nine-minute final track, “The Traveler.” Unfortunately, later in the same song, the band makes a mistake that nearly sinks the entire album. You’ll know it when you hear it.

Overall, though, this is a highly percussive—the riffs sound like they’re being played by whipping the guitar and bass strings with drumsticks—and pleasingly unpredictable album. The riffs don’t follow conventional patterns, nor do the solos emerge from them in a manner you’d be able to predict without following along on sheet music. Still, this isn’t a recital; it’s a death metal record. It’s got energy to spare, and you will headbang. And Turner’s vocals have just enough character to avoid devolving into just an angry Rottweiler mysteriously released into the middle of the mix. These guys are damn good, especially when you take into account that there are only three of them.

Phil Freeman

Stream/buy Thanatopsis on Bandcamp:

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