Germany continues to impress with its technical death metal scene, or at least succeeds at finally getting a worldwide level of notoriety for it. CENTAURUS-A are no newcomers to said scene, having formed in 2000, but only releasing three demos until this first full-length album, "Side Effects Expected". The long-player is in fact made of technicality and death, yet keeps the former from blowing any semblance of song structure to smithereens and infuses the latter with melody, groove, and rhythmic punch.
Somewhere between the works of PSYCROPTIC and OBSCURA (though closer to the former), "Side Effects Expected" impresses without detracting by keeping the riffs rough, tough, and semi-acrobatic, the rhythms even tougher, and the melodic elements vivifying and attention-grabbing. Opener "The Praying Mantis" is the definitive track in this regard; all ripped up and muscular, yet when the melodic break hits with clean picking, spoken vocals, the gradual riff build and one of the album's many tunefully soaring solos, the impact is enormous. It is quite the extreme musical maelstrom, the contrasts of light and shade, as well as the recognition that too much is only occasionally and contextually a good thing, making each of the songs a keeper. Do not be misled, though; more often than not, the emphasis is on metallic pain and punishment, helped in a big way by an engineering job that fattens the bone-dry riffs and puts a lot of "pound" into the drumming. Put another way, this sure ain't no sissy metal.
It is a meal of choppy riffs, Johannes Henke's growled bark, Michael Ahlgrimm's limber bass licks (check out "Narcotic"), occasional MESHUGGAH-esque rhythms, and bursts of guitar-led melody served up with sides of class and thrash. The parts aren't just thrown together either; everything has its place. Any way you slice it, "Side Effects Expected" is a cool little tech-death album that may appeal to more than just the junkies. Side effects may include dizziness, shortness of breath, and chipped front teeth.