As has become more apparent in recent years, extreme metal bands can come from literally any corner of this toilet earth. In fact, there are so many of them on the market today that it is impossible to keep up with all of them, and the countries they come from. And although it’s safe to say that the countries located to the east of the Atlantic take up the lion’s share of the attention (namely Sweden and other Scandinavian countries), one would be sadly mistaken to overlook or discount the United States just yet. One such case in point is one very special band that hails from Topeka, Kansas (where, by the way, zip codes begin with the numbers 666 — you just can’t get more metal than that!) named Origin. And, in addition to having a locale in the U.S.A.’s heartland, this quintet’s sound could also not be more American because they stay close to home when looking for inspiration. (Their main influences are from the likes of Cephalic Carnage, Dying Fetus, and Suffocation.) As a result, Origin’s renowned death-grind assault is an insanely fast, technical, tight, and brutal one. And, in this day and age, it also sounds fairly novel and refreshing.
It feels almost redundant to say because any well-versed metalhead will find it obvious, but the musicianship heard on “Antithesis,” Origin’s fifth and newest record, is nothing short of incredible. After nearly a decade of existence, the band is now, finally, firing on all cylinders, and as a result, they sound like an extremely well-oiled machine. John Longstreth cements his status as just about unparalleled by any other drummer on the metal scene today. He drives the beast forward with truly impeccable, explosive, pummeling, lightning fast blast beats that spit sparks and debris like shrapnel. In other words, he is the audio equivalent of The Energizer Bunny…on amphetamines! And while Longstreth’s style of drumming has all the nuance of a two-by-four to the skull, his playing is always impossibly tight and precise, so it manages to retain a certain level of finesse.
The guitarists are also in fine form here, as their guitar work has never sounded so intricate. It is safe to say they have mastered the art of technical, thrashy riffing, rip-roaring leads, blistering tremolo picking, fluid sweep picking, and occasional pinch harmonics. And not only that, but they’ve also learned how to create guitar solos – and really memorable ones, too. Elsewhere, frontman Paul Ryan turns in a noteworthy performance, as well — his Deicide-worthy array of growls, screams, and bellows is powerful, visceral, vitriolic, and just plain wicked! Finally, the icing on the cake is bassist Mike Flores, whose instrument is much louder in the mix this time around. He comes up with surprisingly interesting and memorable bass parts that make sure the rhythm section is rock solid.
But instrumental prowess will only get you so far – no matter how friggin’ amazing it is!. Well, that’s not a problem here, either, folks. See, unlike, say, 2005’s disappointing “Echoes of Decimation” (Origin’s last release), this record adds quite a bit of substance to its style. For starters, the arrangements are tempered with some undeniable moments of melody, but it is done in a way as to avoid any annoying Swede-inspired cliches. Furthermore, there is an abundance of honest-to-goodness hooks, fairly accessible song structures (including some actual choruses!), groove, tempo variation (i.e. some breakdowns and other slow/er passages to add texture and contrast), ear-snagging guitar riffs (opposed to just one, long wall of guitar noise), and — get this! — standout tracks and songs with memorable parts.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, “Antithesis” possesses one last attribute (which makes it a huge step forward for the band): a little, intangible thing called “feeling.” These ten songs cut deep; they send off wave after wave of furious energy and palpable intensity. The face-ripping set opener, “The Aftermath,” engulfs the listener’s eardrums with a flash flood of frenetic, scalding riffage, grinding, “rat-tat-tat” machine gun blasts, and thunderous rhythms. Some strong bass work (i.e. a grumbling bass bottom and a split-second interlude/solo), a mid-tempo, chugging breakdown, and a nice, Necrophagist-esque clean solo are also tucked into the mix here. “Algorithm” continues down that song’s same path, and, thanks to a brief but wild, shredding guitar solo and nonstop hyper-kinetic, skull-splitting drumming, it completes the album’s beginning one-two punch knockout.
The next two songs might darn well be the catchiest Origin have ever written. Both of which are backed by irresistibly hooky, crunching, lock-step staccato rhythms that will be almost impossible not to headbang along with. Plus, the former tune, “Consuming Misery,” also has interesting, slap bass lines; and the latter, “Wrath of Vishnu,” features a frantic, pummeling, stop-start drum intro and awesome, ripping, and even borderline wailing guitar solo that gives Nile a run for their money in the bluesy, Middle Eastern-influenced metal department. Next up is “Finite,” a disorienting, head-spinning, uber-fast blur of dissonance reminiscent of Psyopus. “Void,” an futuristic, mildly bone-chilling interlude, is another standout, as is “The Beyond Within,” which begins with a jackhammer-fast rhythm that falls from the sky like a ton of bricks before abruptly doing a 180 degree turn and trafficking in a quiet, restrained passage complete with interesting, slapped bass lines.
But the set-closing title track is the indisputably biggest highlight to be found on the album. In fact, it is also, by far, Origin’s most intricate, expansive, infectious, and flat-out mind-blowing piece of work to date, and an absolutely must hear. It is a stunning, epically epic, infectious, innovative, nine-and-a-half-minute-long maze through effective groove-oriented parts, haunting ambience, swift guitar sweeps, stellar melodic soloing, and occasional black metal tendencies.
Let it be known that “Antithesis” isn’t really, well, an “antithesis” per say, because it doesn’t mark a drastic change of sound or direction for Origin. What it certainly does do, though, is deliver on the promise of all of their previous releases. It sounds like the band you’ve always known…but now they are substantially even better than before. As such, it is very much up for debate if this record will gather much attention from anybody who isn’t already a fan. Plus, some listeners (especially first-timers) will find the Kansas-based quintet’s music to be a bit unusual and overwhelming. But regardless of comparisons to previous works, “Antithesis” is, at the very least, an excellent, brutal, exhilarating, and accomplished affair, an early juggernaut for death-grind in 2008, and a great case against writing-off American extreme metal just yet.