Every discerning metalhead has a handful of favorite bands that never get the recognition that they so clearly deserve. Obviously, this is all entirely subjective, but this writer can't be the only metal fan that doesn't understand why ALLEGAEON aren't absolutely fucking huge at this point. Admittedly, the Colorado five-piece have always been synonymous with mind-bending technical virtuosity, and that's not something that has often wielded much commercial clout. But even taking into account their status as the kind of technically gifted band that other technically gifted musicians admire, ALLEGAEON have been churning out extraordinary, deceptively accessible metal records for a decade, with a sound that is as brutal as anything out there, and yet which brims with refined melodic ideas and moments of wild, progressive invention. They should be massive. People are stupid. Nonetheless, founder and guitarist Greg Burgess has been steadily tinkering with his band's sound since their debut album, 2010's "Fragments of Form and Function", and every successive trip to the studio has borne greater results, peaking with 2016's "Proponent for Sentience"; a staggering sci-fi psycho-drama and one of that year's most cerebral bludgeonings.
Fast forward two years and history is repeating itself: "Apoptosis" is almost comically bombastic and elaborate, the band's individual dexterities colliding to inspire stunning group heroics, as Burgess's gift for an insidious melody reaches a new level of efficacy. Even though it kicks off with a two-minute instrumental that will swiftly reacquaint you with the sheer skill and audacity of these five players, ALLEGAEON's fifth record is righteously song-based throughout. The spirit of late '90s melodic death metal is blazing merrily away in the likes of "Extremophiles (B)" and "Metaphobia", and hooks are always at the forefront, along with sanity-threatening feats of fret wizardry—which provide unstoppable undercurrents—and a precise but three-dimensional production job bringing weight and breadth.
It's no coincidence that ALLEGAEON recorded a cover of RUSH's "Subdivisions" as a bonus track for "Proponent for Sentience". Even though the band's default setting is blistering, high-velocity extreme metal, their melodic and progressive sensibilities are consistently at play, so that even something as superficially vicious and unrelenting as "Exothermic Chemical Combustion" feels fundamentally accessible and rich with detail.
Meanwhile, a moment like acoustic interlude "Colors of the Currents" suggests that Burgess and his colleagues are increasingly comfortable in their collective skin. It's an endearing display of beauty and restraint before the scattershot riff-storms and incendiary choruses of "Stellar Tidal Disruption" and the dimension-wrecking, labyrinthine squall of the title track brings everything to a cataclysmic close.
The kind of band that turn nerds into evangelical zealots, ALLEGAEON have done it again. As ever, "Apoptosis" will have shred-freaks drooling, but it's fans of top-quality extreme metal that have most to gain from this formidable show of strength.