As in my review of the second Alkaloid’s album, Liquid Anatomy²⁰¹⁸ (5/6) I again refer to the debut The Malcuth Grimmoire²⁰¹⁵ as one of the greatest most complete progressive death metal works in the genre one I sincerely believe it will one day will be mentioned in one breath with Atheist or Death albums while having, at least, the appearance of more complexity then anything from the aforementioned stalwarts, and that, while being absolutely memorable and often hummable. In my view, that feat was not repeated for the sequel, perhaps, because a different, much riskier mission, was at hand. As then (2018) reported in Metal Injection by Alkaloid’s guitarist Morean, whereas the debut was all about taking death metal and breaking it into pieces to make new creations, the sequel aimed to first change the pieces first at a subatomic level before creating new constructs. That may be why Liquid Anatomy²⁰¹⁸, while still musically very good, felt a bit disjointed, too thinly spread, like Roman troops all over the empire in the 1st Century A.D, as if it were a both a victor and a victim of that subatomic level reconstruction. Where does it leave the third installment, the 2 CD Numen²⁰²³ released on September 15th via Season of Mist?

Well, after four honest applications I conclude that this new gigantic (01:10:11) album appears to be torn between two missions. On one hand, the astronauts of FGS (Federal German Ship) Alkaloid, Hannes Grossman (drums), Noneuclid’s Florian Magnus “Morean” Maier (guitars, vocals), Linus Klausenitzer (bass) and Obscura’s guitarist Christian Münzner (who has thankfully largely recovered from focal dystonia, a condition which impairs the ability to play guitar fast he had aquired in 2011, but has to be careful not to cause a relapse by putting too much pressure on his hand), appear to navigate toward their conception, planet TMG-1, as evidenced by tracks such as the fiercely and “tru” death metal odes to Howard Phillips Lovecraft “Shades of Shub-Niggurath” and “The Fungi from Yuggoth”, both of which easily rival anything from Morbid Angel’s Blessed Are The Sick¹⁹⁹¹ or Covenant¹⁹⁹³, with plenty of little progressive touches and departures for the two of most coherent compositions on the entire album. On the other hand, the ship keeps the (un)steady volatile nuclear Molotov coctail of LQ-2 firmly in its course best evidenced by so aptly named “Clusterf@#k”, practically a progressive rock ballad were it not for those classic Machine Headian riffs, where, what appears to be the summary of creation has to be quoted extensively for its sheer brilliance in accuracy as we “raise cathedrals for man, tear them down in disgust not because we can but because we must” then we’re “raising Eden from dust since our downfall began not because we must but because we can” while “from the ashes of man crawls a god in disgust not because he can but because he must” so he(?) “raises temples of lust, starts again without a plan not because he must but because he can”. I have yet to hear any philosopher sum up the futility of human existence any better.

Although the album is divided into two discs, Disc 1 spanning 6 and Disc 2 5 tracks, the entire offering is sandwiched between Alkaloid’s arguably most ambitious compositions, the fantastic opener “Qliphosis” and the over 13 minute even better closer (that vicious riff at 6:53 one of the sexiest I’ve ever heard in metal) “Alpha Aur” (parts of both similar almost certainly for intended continuity) which are like quintessential Alkaloid in two tracks, the way “Seasons in the Abyss” was Slayer’s quintessential composition. Morean may not be as Jon Anderson (Yes) leaning in clean vocals as on the predecessor but he still amazes with how efforlessly he can play the old angel/demon game, frankly, I can’t believe that same ethereal balladic croon and that disgusting nefarious deathly growl come from the same throat anymore that I could with Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt, and, could it be that the latter maestro quit the “darkside” for that reason, because he wanted to sound more believable and consistent? Well, clearly Morean sees no danger of spontaneous outbreak of schizophrenia during one of the recording sessions as a result of this dichotomy in practice and the music is more interesting for it as was the case with Opeth until Watershed²⁰⁰⁸. Sometimes less is just, well, less.

I suppose this is where your mind can no longer contain the thought “dude, you keep praising but the score demands explanation!” or something to that effect, and I hasten to address your concerns : yes, this time redressing particles at the subatomic level blew up in Alkaloid’s face, and no, I’m not talking about Grossman’s per usual flawless production where everything sounds huge when it needs to, delicate and beautiful when it needs to and ugly and disturbing where you wouldn’t have it any other way, Grossman could produce an album of an up and coming Polish disco polo star and it would blow away the competition. Musically, though, it is as if they had played God for so long they lost their way, because, as we could learn from “As Decreed By the Laws Unwritten” (from Liquid Anatomy²⁰¹⁸) or from lyrics such as “God are you there? For we come knocking at your door, our cage of yore rends and roars as we come crashing through your door” (Numen) that these brilliant musicians, while adamantly anti-Christian and anti-all religion, they nevertheless are far from atheism, maybe agnostics ready to turn a corner with new information or pantheists! After all, “numen” is a Latin term for “divinity”, “divine presence”, or “divine will”, as Cicero writes a “divine mind” (divina mens), a god “whose numen everything obeys,” and a “divine power” (vis divina) “which pervades the lives of men”. Thus “Numen” (the song) and “Clusterf@#k” are proof that they don’t even take the currently so en vogue human spiritual hegemony seriously so they seek answers while questioning everything they learn along their quest for them. But at some point, as is, too, the message drawn from “Numen”, we crash through the bottom of all that can be known (God’s door?) and we come to the point where we have to take what Thomas Aquinas in “Summa Theologica” calls “the leap of faith” or we could stand at that door knocking forever (the point I’m about to produce for you in this very review). This is propably why tracks like the fiercely death metal but underdeveloped “The Cambrian Explosion” (why not repeat that chorus?), yes, the titular overambitious and frankly, boring in places, “Numen”, and finally, the one true filler (something previously unheard of on an Alkaloid album), “Recursion”, “The Folding” faring slightly better, (Disc 2, overall, inferior to Disc 1 by a whopping 0.7 point) are all evidence that the entire thing breaks like the earth from under Biblical Korah’s, Datham’s, Abiram’s and 250 rebels’ feet (Numbers 16:1–40) revealing cracks in the design. It is as if Alkaloid seeking to parody life itself ended up parodying themselves along with it since, by their own admission, they are an inherent part of it. I would be blown away with my jaw firmly on the floor if the effect was actually intended, although, given that Morean, an actual classical composer outside of Alkaloid, writes theatre plays, his most famous piece being “Schattenspiel” (Shadowplay), I totally wouldn’t put it behind him. Do I mean that Morean and co. actually screwed up parts of his new creation on purpose, to prove a point, where we wish Alkaloid would have tightened it up? To answer in his own words, if you could manipulate and generate matter on a subatomic level, what becomes possible?

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