See, I’ve never been a big fan of the ‘Croptic crew from down under. I enjoy portions of Isle of Disenchantment and most of Scepter of the Ancients, but they just never struck me as a band I could listen to again and again. I saw them live at Summer Slaughter (their first North American tour) and while I was impressed with the technicality, I thought there was something missing from the live show. And maybe their vocalist (Jason “Pepi” Peppiatt) with the goofy rattail threw me off too (like, ew! Rattails are so gauche). Something about Psycroptic was just not clicking. Now Psycroptic’s gone and spoiled all that discontent with Ob(Servant), certainly the band’s most accessible effort to date.

Ob(Servant) songs are longer on average than those on previous Psycroptic records, which sounds like a step down for brutal death metal band; “au contraire,” announces the second track and first of the long tracks, ‘A Calculated Effort.’ This is a band that demands attention, perhaps mostly because they know how to divvy up their duties well. The guitar work hinges on fucking genius, with some of the hookiest death metal licks I’ve heard this year alongside California’s Decrepit Birth. And when guitars aren’t going completely batshit (and it is on rare occasion that they aren’t), Dave Haley’s there to step up his polyrhythmic drum game with groovy fills and blast beats galore. But Psycroptic does one better – they know to do all the tech stuff in spurts. They don’t overload the synapses with weedily-weedle guitars and relentless blasting. In fact, this might one of the first brutal death metal records I’ve heard this year that actually embraces its vocals – and a good thing, too.

Jason Peppiatt, now on his sophomore Psycroptic record, was a target of disdain from many fans the last time through on 2006’s Symbols of Failure. Ob(Servant) has him pacing himself, a great improvement over the proverbial clusterfuck in vocal performance on Symbols. Since each of his vocal styles (whether he’s going for the gutturals, the screams, or that bellow that resembles Negative Reaction-sans-suckage) sound different, Psycroptic took their sweet precious time making sure that they actually do sound different. The hints at hardcore are easy to stomach, and serve as a palatable contrast to the standard fare “berg gerg berg” grunts of brutal toad vocalists. Sure, he’s not as straight up ‘br00tal’ as Matt Chalk, but Jason Peppiatt doesn’t sound quite like anyone in death metal today. And goddammit, I tip my hat to a guy that takes a stab at something new and ends up not sounding like crap in the process. Matter of fact, Jason’s a great vocalist. Yeah, I fucking said it.

I don’t necessarily think this CD is as much of a musical mind-blower as Scepter was, but it definitely has its moments that illicit the “whoa” response. I will say this: I had to listen to Scepter multiple times to “get it.” Ob(Servant) didn’t make me work to enjoy it, and for that, it eases its way in as the best Psycroptic CD to date. I don’t know if this’ll be in my top ten at the end of the year, but I will be listening to this again and again in the weeks following its release.

Fucking crikey.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Kris Yancey
September 25th, 2008


  1. Commented by: Staylow

    Great review, great album. These guys perked my interest at Summer Slaughter as well, with what was probably my favorite band/performance on the bill (since Kataklysm decided to no-show). I don’t know much about the back catalog, but I bought Scepter at the show and thought it was pretty good, but this is head and shoulders above it.

  2. Commented by: Dan

    Maybe it’s just me, but Joe Haley’s guitar work might be some of the most distinctive in death metal. He has a tone and style that I can pick out of any line-up.

  3. Commented by: Deepsend Records

    Great album and well put Yancey. This was for a long time a band that you’d like but not love. I think that would ring true for most of their fans. There was always something missing. One of the things was their lack of “balls” or lowend in the production as well as Spawn of Possession both seem to have been into for awhile. With both SoP and Psycroptic, there was no power to their sound. Sure the music was chock full of technical death metal, but it wasn’t heavy or powerful which is what got me into death metal in the first place. But, with Observant, Psycroptic have upped the anty and although it’s still not as heavy as I would like, Psycroptic finally sound the way they probably always should have. I’m really into this record and Dave is the man!

  4. Commented by: Desperado

    My fav is still SoF,though this one is pretty damn good.I’ve enjoyed these guys for awhile,since chalky did vox and they never cease to entertain me.I also enjoy their more calm & collected demeanor.

  5. Commented by: ceno

    Never heard this band before Ob(Servant). Was pretty impressed at the very first spin. Very catchy guitar work did its job hooking me on. Nice review too.

  6. Commented by: axiom

    This sounds great. Guitar, vocals and drum tones dialed in really well. Would love to catch these guys live.

  7. Commented by: Andrew

    The guitar work by joe haley is so original sounding, it’s almost like he had no influences(maybe allan holdsworth or Scott Henderson). The triggered double bass is off-putting though. Also, I found “symbols…” to be a huge let down after the awesomeness(?) of “Sceptor…”…I just read that they have a new cd coming out in February. I can’t wait.

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