That death metal music is heavy is a given. What sets the best bands of that genre apart is the ability to layer in super-technical yet still super-musical guitar solos, heavy breakdowns, compelling drum parts, and even acoustic elements to create an intricate whole. There aren't many bands in the world today that do all of that better than Burning the Masses.
"Have some Black Metal, Thrash Metal, some Speed Metal, and then calm it down with some acoustic and then have the 80's guitar solos come out of nowhere," BTM guitarist Arde Ostowari said when I met up with him and fellow shredder Chris Valenzuela over Super Bowl weekend in Oceanside, California, just north of San Diego. "We're trying to do something different. Why not throw in some killer guitar solos that people aren't doing now. You don't really hear a pentatonic guitar solo in death metal."
In many ways, Burning the Masses' newest album "Offspring of Time" is a microcosm of these varying styles of death metal. Chris and Arde each contributed five songs to the record.
"That was one I wrote," Chris said of the title track. "It was meant to be more of a faster, more intense, more technical song. Our drummer put the taste in that because our the drums make most of that song. The guitar parts are more in your face. I tried to make it more shreddy."
"I could tell with that song it's trying to make something that a listener would listen to and see that's less easy and more complicated," Arde stepped in. "Something like The Faceless and Deeds of Flesh. Necrophagist type where it's hard to figure out."
Listening to "Offspring of Time" is like taking a guided tour through the extreme metal landscape. Chris also wrote "Overseer Fixation" but did so with a completely different approach.
"That was supposed to be more of a Black Metal sort of thing," Chris noted. "More chordy on guitar and slower. A lot of our songs are so in your face, I wanted to slow that one down a little bit. That's what we were always about when we were younger was to throw in different styles."
"Ubiquitous Pillar" is one of the five songs Arde contributed. He said the song started out as a joke while playing around programming tunes on Garage Band but after showing it to Chris realized there was more to it.
"It was just a bunch of gnarly back to back guitar solos switching it up fucking Pantera stomp guitar solo out of nowhere," Arde remembered.
"One thing that influences us a lot on how we write is our solos," Chris interjected. "Most bands focus on their breakdown heavy parts, like in a mosh pit, but the way we write is to..."
"We build it up to the leads," Arde stepped in. "Instead of the breakdown being the main climax, we like the leads and then the breakdown would be more of the resolution. On Ubiquitous Pillar the high climax is the solo and then it goes into the last breakdown that ends it. It's more like the chill down part after the solo."
"Offspring of Time" ends with an instrumental masterpiece called "Tsar Bomb." It starts off with a quiet section that reminds me of Jimmy Buffett until about a minute in when Jimmy gets tossed into a technical death metal margarita blender.
It's not all about guitar solos," Arde insisted. "We're just trying to write something that will be remembered."
With “Offspring of Time”, Burning the Masses has certainly succeeded in creating something memorable. Look for them on tour and be prepared for another onslought with most of the tunes for the next record already well underway.