It took this San Francisco Bay Area progressive/technical death metal ensemble 8 years and 5 albums to finally create something fans of Morbid Angel and Death could equally enjoy in "Clockwork". The two aspects of the band’s sound: the brutal technical death and the progressive melodicism have been there from the start but they were fighting for dominance, the latter aspect barely present on the debut "Liberation Through Hearing" (2012), more emphasized on "A Never-Ending Cycle Of Atonement" (2014) and finally dominant on "Calling From A Dream" (2016), which also introduced the underlying acoustics. "Underneath A Melting Sky", released a mere year later, began to merge all three aspects into one but that came at a price of hooks and songwriting. "Clockwork" is the first album where they succesfully merge into one compelling and convincing musical argument.

The opening title track sets up the concept of the album expanded further by the remaining 7 tracks, each one with a protagonist caught in a different life and death situation told by the dual Cameron Porras/Scott Bradley vocalizations, which reflects the final observation: "I am liberated from the pain of living in a world governed by time/The clock is laughing, a constant reminder of my finite life". "Clockwork", the song showcases what "Clockwork" the album expands on: this newfound sense of balance, the technical aspect very high but enveloped in a downright melodeath-ian Belakor-ism. Scott’s bass, powerfully present, recalls Steve Di Giorgio from Death’s "Human" and becomes the dominant expect on "Voyager", but it’s "Apophenia" where such names as Opeth, Alkaloid or experimental Pestilence begin to crowd your consciousness in reference, and all three aforementioned aspects: technical brutality, progressive melodicism and acoustic atmospherics really shine on "Diagnosis", which recalls mid-era God Forbid in Porras’ rhythm guitars, and gets blackened death metal, which is frequently, and finally effectively, interspersed with gorgeous delicate bass/acoustic strumming only to be buried in death again. The favorite" Ocean" resurrects the ingenious spirit of Chuck Schuldiner (Death) by way of Ne Obliviscaris, Ron Casey borrowing from the percussive dynamics of Metallica’s "Orion". The closer "Liberation" ties everything up while adding Immolation-ary squeals, Cameron, the only guitarist (yes, the same vocalist!) doubling and tripling himself from brutal to melodic to delicate and tripling himself again with all three aspects at once, the unquestionable pillar of the band.

While Inanimate Existence created incredibly effective, catchy and awe-inspiring technical/progressive death metal, having mostly enclosed them in excellent songs, one track, "Desert" is significantly below the standard, lacking in hooks and melody and more reminiscent of the band’s early more chaotic material, which spills a little into "Solitude", but is fully exonerated by the aforementioned "Diagnosis". Also, "Voyager", a very good song, feels a little disappointing after the excellent opening title track. These 3 tracks show room for improvement which I am convinced will be crowded on future endeavors.

Overall, Inanimate Existence can be proud of "Clockwork". It is a brutal yet at times gorgeous concoction of technical wizzardry and progressive tendencies that, for the most part, does not come at a price of hooks, melody or songwriting, adorned with excellent, balanced production which emphasizes every one of the three aforementioned aspects clearly and powerfully, whereby the Americans can be associated with the likes of Obscura, Death or Spawn Of Possession.

"Clockwork" cannot be grasped with a mere exposure so make sure you spent a lot of time with it before casting your judgment. I assure you that time spent with "Clockwork", though it may make you painfully aware of your finitude, won’t be time lost.