Origin – The Entity And The Cycle
Origin are the shameless destroyers of minimalism, the upholders of a mass, technical sound that pierces ears with a rhythm of lightning pace, stark guttural outbursts and manic ‘man-the-machine-guns’ blastbeating. So you’ve heard this all before? Well you might have, but as bassist Mike Flores will tell you – there’s a certain structural order required to really pull it off in this seemingly sporadic genre of extreme music.
Technical death metal is usually more synonymous with refined tastes than the bloody imagery and anti-religious stance frequently associated with its natural predecessor, with bands often exploiting a scientific outlook or even delving into the boundless contemplations of metaphysics. There’s nothing wrong with the aforementioned or the latter, but whilst it’s easy to announce an avid interest in such particular complex topics, it remains another different and wholly difficult task in compacting these concepts into a record and harbouring the acute musical atmosphere to match. If it’s not just about ‘what you say’ but also ‘how you say it’, then Origin intensify their message and put it across in a rapid barricade of thought. But despite the intensified level of musicianship, Flores insists that precision is more important than speed in creating a powerful sound.
“A lot of times, there is a misconception about death metal being about blood and guts and gore,” he explained. “All that aside, death metal is hard to play. It isn’t just mindless distortion. There’s a lot of work going into the arpeggios and sweeps. We want it to sound good to the listener. It isn’t about how many notes you can cram into a measure; it’s about making sure they sound good.”
It’s this meticulous mentality that countless artists would admit to, but it’s not just a pent-up selection of every note that Origin stand by. Others have taken this mindset to another level. With squeaky-clean polished production, grossly layered instrumentation and excessive technical values, many have either intentionally sought a mechanical sound or obliviously fallen into a mire of soulless machine-like work. But when asked whether it was Origin’s intention to go this far, Flores responds in punchy assertive manner.
“No, we want our music to be as human as possible,” he said. “We try not to record anything we can’t play live. We definitely don’t want people to listen to the CD, and then be disappointed to see us live.”
At a contrast, the Kansas-based four-piece immerse themselves in something much deeper and darker when conveying this ‘human’ feel. As you’d expect it’s not the traditional DM approach that appeals to them. Lyrically, Origin almost suspend themselves in a spatial narrative, neutral to the grounded chaos of men that DM would so choose to describe – instead riddled with the awareness of man’s insignificance in the wider worldly picture. The acknowledgement and fear of life’s subtlety is a theme that has pulsated through their very core since day one, and new album Entity builds on this.
“I think ‘Entity’ has that feel as well,” Flores confirmed. “On this CD, we deal with natural disasters, as well as diseases and viruses that affect people, plants, and animals. We explore the life cycle of even the planet, things that have happened and can happen. Also, how life advances and changes, in addition to how extinction advances and changes. We look at it from an astronomical point of view. We don’t base it on wars and violence. We look to the puzzles around us, like the fossils dug up in the earth, or crop circles, or the stars in the solar system. Disease, history, disasters and things beyond our control. Nature can be more frightening than man.”
Since the prominently positive attention received after the release of 2008’s Antithesis, much has changed. Although they still did much of the production work themselves, keeping Rob Rebeck as engineer, the album is not only their debut with Nuclear Blast Records but also their first without frontman James Lee, who parted ways with the band in February 2010. Undoubtedly each of the four members left have gained experience in the years in between, but what does he think of Entity in relation to the successful Antithesis?
“I feel the song structure is better, and the music is catchier,” he responded. “Things flowed better. The songs feel more like a chapter in a book, like parts of a puzzle. Antithesis was us working our way to this album. The songs are easier to listen to [and] you can enjoy listening to them without trying to understand every piece of it. We focused on the flow of the songs, with little regard to their length.”
Primarily unconcerned by the prospect of overrunning or being too brief, Entity weighs in at a modest yet concise 36 minutes. Surprising it may be, but the length works in their favour to hold the listener’s full-time attention by avoiding over-indulgence and essentially nailing an album that feels complete. The old clichéd phrase ‘time flies when you’re enjoying yourself’ might just apply, but regardless of it’s blistering nature Origin’s keystone of ideas remain in tact and potently represented. Even in Entity’s title – that Flores says – refers to ‘the life cycle of our planet’, there’s still a much more personal level of interest that electrifies them.
“The basis for the lyrics are the result of a lifetime fascination with the earth, the solar system, and the cycle of all these things in space, and how the human race is a tiny portion of this history,” he explained, before moving on to a more reflective state – “It’s the passing of things that have been, and looking to the things that will be. Everything has a life cycle [and] inevitably, this history will continue after we do not.”
Steering away from such morbid reflections, Origin have plenty to look forward to for 2011. Touring alongside Hate Eternal, Vital Remains and Abysmal Dawn, they set out mid-June and spend a month on the road, leaving the US and Canada behind in a brutal wake before heading to Puerto Rico for three dates. Despite the early summer months being a hot-bed of relentless activity, they are optimistic about making a UK appearance soon.
“It is in the works for fall 2011,” Flores said. “We’re still piecing together the tour pack, [but] should see some UK dates.”
Entity is out now on Nuclear Blast.
Feature written by Calum Robson for Soundshock.