Apogean Dive Into Hazards Of Modern Technology In Cyberstrictive

Canadian technical progressive Death Metallers Apogean return with the follow-up to their 2021 debut EP Into Madness. Their first full-length, the forty-three-minute, ten-track Cyberstrictive, is yet another quality offering, but some things are a little different this time.

Apogean – Cyberstrictive (The Artisan Era)

Release Date: 8 March 2024

Words: Jools Green

Apogean: Cyberstrictive delves into the dark aspects of technology
Apogean: Cyberstrictive delves into the dark aspects of technology

Firstly, Cyberstrictive features new vocalist Mac Smith, best known for his recent role as live vocalist for Decrepit Birth. Smith adds a deeper, more guttural slant to the vocal role, and whereas Into Madness lyrically explored themes of Insanity, Cyberstrictive delves into the dark aspects of technology, taking a broader look at its impact on our minds, bodies, and souls.

Drawing significant inspiration from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and echoing the dystopian excerpts of George Orwell’s 1984, Cyberstrictive explores the hazards of modern technology, covering risks such as sensory damage, psychological trauma, desensitisation, information paradoxes, predatory practices targeting children, addiction complexities, and the erosion of creativity.

This culminates in reflection on overarching manipulation and concludes by addressing the burdensome aspects of technology, employing wordplay and metaphor to illustrate the overwhelming drawbacks outweighing the benefits in the modern digital world, so the negative aspects of the mind are still explored.

But this time, Apogean delve deeper, delivering a more lyrically complex offering. Delivered as before, as a meld of Progressive Metal, Technical Death, Deathcore and Blackened Death, Cyberstrictive has a forward-thinking manner with the same high-quality composition and musicianship of the earlier EP, if not more so.

Join Hillbilly Vegas on Tour This July

Opening with Bluelight Sonata, featuring a guest solo by Alex Baillie (Cognizance), a track which delivers an impressively dramatic and brutal start to the album. Lyrically delving into the detrimental effect of Bluelight on human circadian rhythm, from the perspective of it being used as a chilling alien-machine takeover, it bursts forth with unnerving spoken word over sinister riffing, panning out into a wave of spiralling technical riffs melded with guttural vocals and pummelling drums.

Added texture comes from sharp but complex convolutions and direction shifts with multiple bursts and soaring leadwork, with a reflective drop in the second half adding atmosphere and contrast. Apogean deliver a mind-blowingly superb opening piece.

Whilst the exact meaning of the lyrics of Thousand-Yard Glare is tantalisingly ambiguous, what is equally tantalising is the very poetic rhyming of those lyrics. Don’t worry. They are delivered with the utmost brutality as two voices, a guttural growl and a higher acidic hiss.

Musically, it delivers an equally brutal and complex drive to open, the riffing developing increasing technical complexity as it progresses, with extreme degrees of ebb and build, encompassing unnerving quiet swathes and stunning bouncy bass lines. This then takes a crunchy, punchy turn before a brief breakdown, which is contrasted with complex soaring leadwork. The final guttural roar and breakdown are both stunningly impactful and brutal.

I love the crazy discordant quality of the riffs and twin voices on Distance (Of Walls And Wails). It conjures all manner of insane notions of isolation, claustrophobia, sensory overload and madness. A cleverly complex piece that is also utterly engaging.

If I have interpreted the lyrical meaning regarding With Which Ear You’ll Listen correctly, it looks at an annoyingly insidious internet phenomenon. But I’ll say no more. Listen and decide for yourself. Here, Apogean burst forth with a blistering swathe of leadwork and pummelling drumwork.

A beast of a track that is as engaging as it is crushing, mid-way dropping back to a quiet swathe and the ominous growled chant “Falsum numen, Super omnes pavet,” (false god, feeds on all) as the sound re-builds in rapid increments. This culminates in a sublime swathe of soaring leadwork that courses over the maelstrom of brutal riffs and pummelling drum work.

When you think about the internet, there are a couple of insidious things Imposter Reborn could be inspired by. But the final section of the lyrics gives you a pretty good clue, “Covetous, pernicious, seeking naive victims to expand corruption’s dynasty. Malicious, a total infestation of financial numerology. Decadent, guising predation as something of benevolence. Pernicious, vicious predators in digital camouflage!!”

It’s a pummelling offering delivered at an often-insane pace with impressive precision. Vocally sinister again with those twin voices, even the quieter segments ooze an ominous aura.

Within The Bounds Of A Simile is a comparatively short but punchy and to-the-point lamentation of our failure to reach our potential due to the intervention of technology. A predominantly fast, technically sharp offering with bursts of bleakly emotive leadwork and a reflective second-half drop.

Hueman (The Pleasure Of Burn) is unnervingly eerie and reflective to open. The duration of the intro is almost a minute, so the opening vocal scream and ensuing growls really awaken your senses when they arrive.

An intense, hugely complex wave of riffs then pounds your senses, switching to a more melodic but still heavily technical feel, featuring, this time, a guest solo from Paul Walsh, delivering a flamboyantly technical lead burst in the second half. Overall, it is a hugely engaging piece.

The next Apogean piece, Polybius, is inspired by the story behind a mysterious video game that allegedly appeared in arcades around Portland in 1981, also allegedly linked to Men In Black and the disappearances of some players. Urban myth? Who knows?

But it’s an intriguing tale, and although musically, it might be the shortest piece at just over two minutes, it still manages to be hugely complex in its pace and content. The riffs are sharply delivered, with protracted growls and over an arcade game-sounding undercurrent. It’s eerily good.

Penultimate piece, Spinthariscope, has yet another fascinating source of inspiration. The spinthariscope is a device for observing individual nuclear disintegrations caused by the interaction of ionising radiation with a phosphor, invented by William Crookes in 1903.

But Apogean go a step further, lyrically taking a bleak sci-fi Death Metal approach to the subject, linking it to the impending fate of humanity. Musically and vocally, it is delivered at a frenzied pace, the riffs whirling like spiralling atoms. With an eerie undercurrent and superbly protracted vocals, midway, it drops back to keyboards, which create a mental imagery of sparkling phosphorescent particles.

Ending dramatically on an extended clean reflective swathe of just haunting undulating guitar, it’s possibly my favourite piece. But it’s a very close call because the overall quality and engagement across the release is so high.

Final piece, An(t)imus, rises hauntingly out of its predecessor. Building in bold increments, it’s sharp and technically excellent, maintaining that haunting undercurrent. Vocally cavernous, it switches direction and pace with fluid precision, ebbing between quieter moments and brutal bursts, the leadwork having a hauntingly reflective mood. Most of the second half is taken up by a dramatically eerie fade-out.

Cyberstrictive is an insanely good listen end to end with utterly fascinating lyrical content. Definitely an album that provides food for thought.

The artwork by Mark Erskine is equally thought-provoking. It is available to preorder in vinyl, CD and digital formats at Apogean.bandcamp.com/album/cyberstrictive.

Sleeve Notes

Sign up for the MetalTalk Newsletter, an occasional roundup of the best Heavy Metal News, features and pictures curated by our global MetalTalk team.

More in Heavy Metal



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Search MetalTalk

MetalTalk Venues

MetalTalk Venues - The Devil's Dog Digbeth
MetalTalk Venues – The Green Rooms Live Music and Rehearsal
The Patriot, Crumlin - The Home Of Rock
Interview: Christian Kimmett, the man responsible for getting the bands in at Bannerman's Bar
Cart & Horses, London. Birthplace Of Iron Maiden
The Giffard Arms, Wolverhampton

New Metal News