Origin continue to frighten and enthrall us

Lineup changes, a bloated subgenre, and time have done nothing to diminish the vicious tech-death assault of Origin. They somehow keep figuring out a way to get more ridiculous, more effective and more dynamic, and their fifth record “Entity” is only going to contribute to all of this madness.

This is the band’s first record for Nuclear Blast and their first since longtime frontman James Lee, who had been with the band since 2001, fled the fold. Jason Keyser (formerly of Skinless) has since joined the band and will be the guy standing out front live, but on this record, guitarist Paul Ryan and bassist Mike Flores handle the vocal work, and quite capably at that. That’s all well and good, right, but as strong as the vocals are on “Entity,” that’s not the reason people are going to flock to this record. The mind-blowing musicianship and power tool-equivalent effectiveness is what has won Origin their accolades, and there is no shortage of brilliant carnage on this album.

Ryan remains a total musical force, with him registering a million and a half notes and stunning soloing and riffing that should frighten most people, especially those who claim the same instrument of choice. The man is not human. He just can’t be. As previously stated many times, I am not a guitar player so I don’t approach this with any level of actual knowledge, but just listening to what he does here and on other Origin records baffles and intimidates me. The other thing I like about his work is he doesn’t just show off, and really, would anyone argue if he did? He does have a knack for setting up thrashy, tasty bits that make you want to pound on something, such as during “Saliga,” a near-seven-minute cut that isn’t just noodling and wizardry. He remembers that the music also should be violent in a primal way, and he and the band achieve that here. Drummer John Longstreth also has a hand (well, two hands) in that as well, as his playing contributes to the punishment (complemented, of course, by Flores). Longstreth’s work, too, is to behold, from his double-kick rumbling to his near-blast smashing to his torrid pace-setting. In fact, I listened to this record a few times during my daily walks, and I notice I’m trying hopelessly to walk in pace with his work. As you can imagine, my walks are faster and more aggressive when I have “Entity” blasting over my headphones. My legs also are kind of sore, something that I’m sure would amuse Longstreth, who can’t be comfortable after a night behind the kit.

Something I should admit is that I’m not a giant fan of technical death metal, mostly because it often feels so antiseptic and soulless. Again, that may be because I don’t play and can’t appreciate the musicianship on the level of someone who does, but often I’m left cold. I feel like the expression comes more from one wanting to wow with prowess rather than heart. Not that I can’t note the music as being strong, but often these aren’t albums to which I return very often. Origin is one of the bands that breaks that mold for me. Their work always make me feel something, and usually they cause my adrenaline to surge. “Entity” is no exception, and one of the things I really like about it is its concise 36-minute running time. It’s perfect. Their songs are more compact, they throw a ton of things at you in a small window of time, they don’t waste time with long compositions for their own sake, and as a result, they make effective records. It this record was 50 minutes or 60 minutes, I’m not sure it would be as enjoyable or powerful. Luckily, that’s not something we have to worry about. Shit just blasts by, and it does demand repeated listens for you to keep things straight, but I surely haven’t minded doing that. That’s led me to find the juicy stuff, from “Fornever,” that sounds like a classical piece sped up to warp speed and made slightly demonic, to math metal blast “Committed,” with comically delivered high-pitched guitar and equally bizarre gurgly vocals, to punchier “Purgatory” that seems aimed at the thrash crowd, to mix-of-everything closer “Consequence of Solution,” that runs over seven minutes but really feels about half as long. That’s the sign of a strong epic song.

Origin’s powerful catalog and their intelligence help keep this Topeka, Kansas, band ahead of the tech-death heap. As stated, there have been tons of new bands trying this thing ever since Origin emerged with their 1998 mini-release “A Coming Into Existence” and their 2000 self-titled full-length debut, and there’s a reason this band never loses its grip: They’re just better than everyone else. “Entity” is another example of why Origin is admired and respected, and no matter what happens to this band, from lineup changes to label switches, they never lose their focus and fire. As long as that continues, and there’s no reason to think it won’t, Origin will remain the tech-death heavyweight champions of the world.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.myspace.com/origin

To buy “Entity,” go here”: http://store.nuclearblastusa.com/artist/origin/11490

For more on the label, go here: http://www.nuclearblastusa.com