Too often in metal, limits and boundaries are pushed at the expense of taste. Bands and fans alike can be found showering bursts of attention onto the latest hotshots redlining along at the fastest BPMs, at whose got the most unintelligibly guttural vocals, at who can generate the most indistinguishably chaotic guitar tone and/or how picture-perfect and sanitized rhythm sections can deliver their click-tracked wares. More often than not, all this comes at the expense of clarity, soul, groove and, most importantly, good songs. For Québec City’s Deviant Process, this sort of thing has been happening too much and for too long. And while the progressive tech-death quartet are tuned in to their surroundings, the band have made a conscious decision to drop out, but not before turning on those obsessed with the likes of classic Death, Cynic and Pestilence as well as contemporaries Obscura, Beyond Creation and Fractal Universe with Nurture, their second full-length and first for Season of Mist.
“We aren’t the kind of band where it’s ‘showing off first, music second,’” exclaims guitarist/vocalist Jean-Daniel Villeneuve. “We want to have great compositions with solid ideas and structures. We want the listener to be able to sing the song, to be able to remember every passage and every riff, not just thinking, ‘Oh my god, I’m surrounded by 11,000 notes a second.’ We didn’t want to check tech-death boxes about what BPM we needed to have blast beats at, using the same amps this big band used or how much shredding we needed to include. We don’t want to be a band that’s only about achievements in technical ability. We want great music and that’s been our goal since the beginning.”
“The container is more important than the contents,” guitarist Stéphane Simard sums up. “We take time to have really good structures first before adding all the harmonies, melodies and musicianship stuff.”
Deviant Process’ history goes back to 2008 with Villeneuve kicking out the one-man symphonic black metal jams under the guise of Psychic Pain. A self-produced demo caught the attention of fellow axe-swinger and musical soul mate, Simard, who together with bassist Pierre-Luc Beaulieu and drummer Olivier Genest, completed the band’s original lineup. In 2011, the foursome recorded two-track debut EP Narcissistic Rage after a common bond led to a shift in musical direction.
“Psychic Pain was a solo project,” remembers Villeneuve, “and when Steph and I came together, more brutal and technical death metal was the common ground between the two of us. So, we decided to go that way because that’s more how we thought about music together and it fit better.”
Following the release of Narcissistic Rage, Deviant Process honed their chops on local stages, opening for the likes of Cryptopsy and Revocation, and in rehearsal rooms, delving deeper into the ways and means of expanding technical death metal beyond jaw-dropping tempos and flashy fretboard finger gymnastics. Replacing Genest with drummer Antoine Baril (who produced and engineered Narcissistic Rage) introduced broader rhythmic elements to the new material, everything from rock-solid four-on-the-floor heavy metal pounding to side-winding jazz and hi-brow classical percussion. In the summer of 2013, the band entered Baril’s Hemisphere Studio with the help of Chris Donaldson (Cryptopsy, Beneath the Massacre, Ingested, Ophidian I) to capture what would become debut album, Paroxysm. To say their first full-length endeavor was a challenge is an understatement. During what ended up being a three-year operation, François Fortin took over both production and drumming duties, production work shifted studio locations from Hemisphere to La Boîte Noire, and the insanely busy Baril (who also plays in Augury, From Dying Suns and Contemplator and owns the studio in which Paroxysm was recorded) made the decision to leave the band during the mixing process. By the production had been completed, bassist/lyricist Philippe Cimon replaced Beaulieu.
Deviant Process may have been bruised and battered by the end of the process, but they emerged stronger, more intent and focused, with a new lease on life, a solid lineup (drummer Francois C. Fortin replaced Michel Bélanger, who had stepped up after Baril left) and Paroxysm which was initially released by recently shuttered Canadian label, PRC Music. Paroxysm was supported by slots opening for the likes of Archspire, First Fragment, Beyond Creation and Gorod. But it was a mini-tour in the band’s home province opening for Gorguts and Dysrhythmia in 2017 that brought them to the attention of Season of Mist. The band and label felt each other out, went into negotiations and finalized a deal in 2018.
“We were a really small band with an album released on a really small label when [SoM label boss] Michael [Berberian] approached us…” begins Simard.
“…He said that some people in the US office told him about the band and the album,” finishes Villeneuve. “He liked it, made a proposal for the next album and then sent a contract. I still don’t know who told him about us, but that’s the story, as dull as it is!”
This brings us to the present and forthcoming second album, Nurture. Its seven songs (and one cover, of Obliveon’s “Cybervoid”) are an expansive marvel of not just technical death metal maturity, but the seamless inclusion of foreign elements like the tribal fusion middle-eight in “In Worship, In Blood,” the almost free-jazz chaos that introduces and drives “Emergence,” the Latin-folk-meets-British-prog acoustic flourishes in “Syrtis Magna” and tinges of ‘90s Rush weaved into the complex firestorm of “Asynchronous.” It’s a record that the guitar-slinging duo said they officially started working on in the autumn of 2017, so as to take advantage of the opportunity afforded to them by their new label, but one in which the material harkens back to 2008 as the band has been unafraid to dip into its extensive riff bank for the meticulously perfect idea that’ll connect this and that, old with new, brutal and delicate, and balls out with brains out.
“We know when it’s too much and are always thinking about what’s best for the song,” Villeneuve explains. “Some people might want to hear a million notes in a song, but sometimes all you need is a riff with two power chords that will stick in your head. But, we’ve also been known to spend a complete week working on a three-second transition…”
“…Or throwing out a couple minutes of music we’ve worked on because it doesn’t fit with the parts before or after it,” says Simard.
Nurture bobs and weaves like the sonic manifestation of a worryingly tall and fantastically ripped mathematics/quantum physics double-major who spends nights crunching noses and ear cartilage after spending days crunching numbers and calculating the size of the universe. Tidal layers of barbarous guitars engage in a baroque convergence/divergence dance and are bounced off prominent, fusion-inspired bass playing. The drumming stops and spins on a dime from ambient sparseness to clogging every artery of space while Villeneuve unleashes an insanely unholy barrage of black metal screams, death metal growls and full-throated, muscular bellowing, everything being put on display throughout dizzying album centerpiece “The Blessings of Annihilation Infinite.”
“On Nurture, we took a different direction during the writing,” the vocalist says, “to make it more articulate and instrumental. Death metal wasn’t our only guideline for writing music or even what we enjoy; we like jazz, old prog from the ‘70s, classical and we want to play the well-crafted music that we want to hear.”
Thematically, Nurture uses veiled lyrical references and far-reaching metaphors in the exploration of human experience commonalities. What’s being referenced may not be blatantly or entirely revealed, but spend enough time parsing and decoding Philippe Cimon’s lyrics and it’s clear that even if the dude is living in a perpetual game of 3-D chess, he empathizes with what we’re all dealing with and understands where we’re all coming from and where we’re all going.
Says the bassist: “There isn’t a central theme for the lyrics on Nurture. The songs were written over a certain period of time and different themes are explored. A common aspect to every song is the use of esoteric or mythological references to express a relation to a certain theme, be it substance abuse, trauma and its consequences, faith, solitude, or man’s lust for power. However, the themes are sometimes brought up in a way that is very unclear and lets the reader make up his own explanation of the text.”
“There’s no gory stuff or anything typically death metal in our lyrics,” adds Villeneuve. “Our goal is to have the listener be able to associate a lyrical idea to a song. We want the listener to create their own feeling and meaning for the songs. It’s an album where people can really feel the vibe throughout the whole thing, not just from listening to one song. There’s an energy you can feel from our effort and there’s a flow that goes from beginning to the end, a journey that’s speaking in the music.”
With Season of Mist having their backs, Deviant Process has quickly been thrust into an unfamiliar world of having to select and settle on variant vinyl colors, conjure up multiple t-shirt designs, tend to contractual and legal matters, PR responsibilities, out-of-province and international communication and all that fun behind-the-scenes business stuff. The band is still adjusting to industry demands and encountering stressful situations they hadn’t thought of, assumed they’d ever have to consider or even know existed. Ironically, what’s brought them to this point is their own boundless and borderless take on extreme metal. They may be “a small band that wants to be not small,” and Nurture has helped them get their collective foot in the door to a world populated by the stable of bands they blasted while growing up and still blast today when time away from rewriting the rules of technical death metal permit.
“All of my favorite bands since I was young seemed to be signed to Season of Mist,” laughs Simard, “so we are very appreciative of having the opportunity to be on the same label as our idols. We’re still getting used to what we have to do when we’re not playing our instruments…”
“…But we want to go against the grain,” says Villeneuve, again finishing his counterpart’s thought. “We don’t want to just fit in the tech-death box; we want to include anything that opens more possibilities, even if we’re just boring people from a small city in Québec that like and want to play really good music!”
Jean-Daniel Villeneuve: guitars, vocals
Stéphane Simard: guitars, backing vocals
Philippe Cimon: bass
Michel Bélanger: drums
Recording Studio: La Boite Noire, David Lizotte (vocals recordings only)
Mixing, mastering, production, and sound engineer: François C. Fortin
Cover art: Sien-Sébastien
Bio: Kevin Stewart-Panko
12″ Gatefold vinyl (black)