Sci-fi thrashers Dissimulator debut with the future shock-inducing Lower Form Resistance. I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.

Release date: January 26, 2024 | 20 Buck Spin | Facebook | Bandcamp

Science fiction and metal have always had a great synergy together. Maybe it’s that both genres attracted the nerds and weirdos for their respective mediums, and found a natural crossover point. Perhaps it’s the way sci-fi could play on the same social concerns as thrash metal, or the wild-minded brutality of death metal. Could it be in the way the aesthetics for both genres could somehow manage to look both really corny and plain awesome at the exact same time? Whatever the case, metal bands have loved using sci-fi concepts for as long as the genre has existed, and some bands (most obviously the legendary Voivod) have sci-fi so deeply entwined with their musical DNA that they even sound alien and futuristic. And bands like that have always been some of the genre’s most intriguing.

In that very tradition, a new band called Dissimulator has arrived with debut album Lower Form Resistance. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s my favorite thrash album to come out in quite some time. Signed to the powerhouse label 20 Buck Spin and hailing from Montreal, Dissimulator is made up from an extremely reliable group of musicians that have featured in bands as diverse as Atramentus, Beyond Creation, Sutrah, and the sorely missed Chthe’ilist. And as one would correctly assume from all those details, Lower Form Resistance is absolutely impeccable.

Within seconds of the hi hat lead-in to album opener “Neural Hack,” Dissimulator is off and running in high gear. Chunky, energetic riffs and razor-sharp tremolo lines flow abundant and rapidly alternate throughout the album, with the dizzying onslaught of guitars easily matched by a phenomenal bass performance and gruff vocals that easily could have come from an early death metal album. That death metal subtext does sustain throughout the album, giving Dissimulator a ballast that calls to mind early death thrash projects like Demolition Hammer, Sadus, or the first few works of Pestilence. A strong start for certain, but the band is only getting warmed up.

With second track “Warped”, Lower Form Resistance begins making good on the promise of its sci-fi inspired cover art. The riffs become more spidery and rhythmically adventurous. The chord choices get jazzier and more dissonant. And soon enough, the band is deploying Cynic-esque vocoders to provide an alien counterpoint to the blunt growls. Unsurprisingly for a band from Quebec, Dissimulator has clearly taken inspiration from the likes of Voivod and Obliveon, and those dual influences make for the absolute coolest parts of Lower Form Resistance.

The further into this album one listens, the more tricks Dissimulator breaks out, and it’s a genuine delight. Longer songs like “Outer Phase” and “Cybermorphism / Mainframe” boast careening progressive structures, the latter also boasting a slower and unexpectedly pensive intro. Closing title track “Lower Form Resistance” almost seems like it’s going to be an instrumental before a jarringly clean but unpolished vocal performance turns up half-way through (again, very reminiscent of the less blatantly metal moments of Voivod). Time signatures regularly feel broken and off-kilter, possibly even polyrhythmic at times. The band’s commitment to never letting their progressive sci-fi death/thrash blend stay the same for too long makes certain that they will never let an idea stay past its shelf-life. That approach, bolstering the blinding technicality on display here, assures that every moment feels fresh and exciting, even while the band plays in such a well-trodden genre.

Obviously, it helps that the individual performers involved are absolute musical aces. Claude Leduc’s guitar playing is endlessly inventive through any number of weird time signatures or blazing guitar solos, and his vocals are always spot on in delivery and conviction. Philippe Boucher’s drumming is an absolute joy to listen to, finding great shifting rhythms and fills to spice up any moment. And Antoine Daigneault is just outstanding on bass throughout, easily matching and occasionally outshining the guitars at any given moment. It helps that the production on this album is perfect for the style, giving every instrument complete clarity while not feeling too processed or clean. The band may lock together like a machine, but it’s more of a gritty Terminator than a sleek I, Robot kind of machine.

I’ll admit, thrash isn’t always an easy sell for me given how defined by its rules the subgenre is. So much of it feels like it’s been assembled from a pre-packaged assortment of parts sometimes, and it takes a special band to really impress. But the way Dissimulator performs and writes feels like they’ve been purpose built and modified to warp minds and strain necks. That Lower Form Resistance is just a debut is shocking, because to my ears, any possible bug or glitch in the code deleted, leaving a perfect killing machine of an album. At the dead minimum, Dissimulator’s Lower Form Resistance is proof that thrash will persist into the future, regardless of whether or not the singularity happens and the machines take over. Hell, with an album like this, maybe thrash is better off in cybernetic hands!

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