Obsolete are a technical thrash/death metal quartet from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Animate//Isolate is their debut album. Two of the members, guitarist/vocalist Lucas Scott and drummer Pat Ruhland, are also in the band Australis, who released an album back in 2016 that I haven’t heard. I spent the time to look them up on metal-archives.com, though, so I mentioned it.

Technical death metal takes many forms. There are ultra-precise bands like Neuraxis and (once upon a time) Cryptopsy; bludgeoning but complex acts like Suffocation; groups whose music verges on jazz fusion, like Obscura; and other, more warped outfits whose work is even harder to classify. Obsolete play a fast, intricate style of thrashy tech-death that seems to owe a lot to bands like Voivod and Coroner. It’s also possible, squinting one’s ears, to pick up hints of Enslaved and peak-era (Human/Individual Thought Patterns/Symbolic) Death.

That’s all fine. A band’s debut album is frequently a snapshot of the members’ record collections. What vaults great bands out of the pack is the ability to take everything they’ve stolen from their heroes and make it their own by injecting just enough originality that you want to listen to them, instead of just pulling your own copies of those same great old albums off the shelf. And that’s exactly what Obsolete have done here.

A big part of their achievement lies in the actual sound of the record. The drums aren’t processed into electronic jackhammer oblivion; they sound like physical objects being hit with sticks by a living human being. They have a looseness that brings to mind not only ’90s death metal, but even grindcore. The two guitars seem to be tuned high rather than low, leaving plenty of room for deep, liquid bass. The vocals are hoarse and shouty, reminiscent of Tribulation.

The band’s songs are packed with melodic twists and turns, shifting seamlessly between crisp, thrashy riffs and melodic interludes that allow you to catch your breath before the next sprint. They’re almost inhumanly fast at times; “Silent Freeway” opens with a guitar part almost worthy of Rigor Mortis‘s Mike Scaccia, and even when the song settles into its primary groove, Ruhland’s drums roll over you like a 100 mph rockslide. High guitar harmonics and blast beats provide accents, stretching your brain between high and low.

This is a short, fast record — nine tracks in 35 minutes. Obsolete have a lot to say and no confidence that you’ll stick around if they’re not kicking your ass every minute. Fortunately, that also means that the energy level stays high throughout. There’s not a bad or boring track here, and the unexpectedly clear mix (check out the almost-lead bass on “Stumbling and Listless” and “The Fog”) allows you to listen at any volume level you like, hearing something interesting every time. Now, if they’d just take a decent band photo…

Phil Freeman

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