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“Of Unsound Minds,” the debut offering from Greek death/thrashers Afterblood, shows a nice hybridized attempt by the band to introduce themselves and their style quite nicely as there’s some fine elements at work here for them to work on in their future careers as well as some lingering rookie mistakes.
One of the most notable aspects for the band, especially on a debut offering, is the fact that they seem incredibly confident with their sound and approach even this early on. Adopting more of a cross-over between death and thrash metal, only with far more of a melodic undercurrent than most who play the style go for, there’s one thing immediately noticeable here which is the band adopts more of a mid-tempo pace throughout rather than going for the kill in regards to the speed, as even on the fastest numbers here it’s still quite far removed from where it could’ve gone in terms of getting the speed unleashed. This isn’t a knock at all, for there’s a sense of confidence in keeping the tracks in the mid-range as they do here which allows them to focus more on the varying guitar patterns that are employed which is quite a feat for such a young band. These aren’t technically strong tracks by any means but more they’re based on the extended use of the chosen riffing pattern that is seamlessly carried into a new riff that keeps the song going forward and that’s a strong accomplishment here overall. The riffing is stylish, dynamic and actually sounds far more modern with the hint of melody within as the two are meshed rather well, chugging along at the mid-tempo pace with a large dose of melody emitted from the guitars or even ambient keyboards that pop up from time-to-time which are a part of the more modern, stylized sound overall. This, in effect, turns the band somewhat into a replicated form of the melodic fusion of death and thrash that emerged from Sweden in the early nineties in the Gothenburg scene that this clearly emulates even if this is more thrash-based with the overall patterns and guitar efforts. This, when combined with the slower-paced chugging patterns and mechanical drumming at times tends to lend this a somewhat-muted-but-still-appreciable industrial influence that is never a real focal-point of the album but comes and goes in select spots throughout the album, especially on the later half which has an easier time letting these outside influences creep into the sound as the more prominent death and thrash influences take over the front part. Capped off with a hoarse, raspy death metal growl that’s still somewhat on the lighter side due to the lead female vocals not getting low enough to be mistaken for a males’, and overall this isn’t altogether bad for a debut offering.
As mentioned before, it’s not a clear-cut example of an album split in two but it definitely has some different and distinct notes throughout it. The first half, for example, is readily made up of simple, heavy chugging-filled thrashers that are on the faster side of the mid-tempo range, as the fastest song here still isn’t a total barnburner but it’s still there as a general guide to understanding the fact that the songs remain quite in line with each other in regards to the tempo and get a lot more out of the variation changes throughout because there’s much livelier and dexterous drumming patterns throughout these songs. This gives them a little nuanced feature of having a little more room to breathe in regards to the arrangements which has, as expected, several of the better tracks on the album placed up front. That leaves the second half to be a slightly bigger disappointment as there’s a lot more of the same, sluggish-sounding tracks played pretty much in the same pace and tempo with far more cold, mechanized drumming patterns that coincide with the increased use of ambient, atmospheric keyboards with a cyberized vibe, which in the end makes this come off less as a death/thrash album and more of a computerized effort. There’s very little here in regards to keeping up some slight pattern variations and tempo changes that were at the very least attempted in the first half, which made them so much fun, and instead opts for that cold, distant feeling out of nowhere when it’s been ably demonstrated that the band was capable of delivering solid melodic thrash metal with some death elements, so the shift is somewhat jarring to the listener. There’s still some of the traditional thrashers on here in regards to the mid-paced chugging and stylized riffing that was still a prominent aspect of the first half of the album, so there’s some hope for these guys in the future to hone their style more so on a debut offering there’s some leyway given as the band struggles to find their identity.
The first half to this is pretty fun and certainly has the best parts of their sound on immediate display. Intro ‘Take’ starts with rolling, dirty guitar riffs that crash into groovy mid-tempo thrash-fest with barreling double-bass blasts and rattling bass-notes as the mid-tempo pace is exercised to fantastic degrees with a fantastic mixture of stuttering chugging on the chorus with more fluid thrash-based patterns on the chorus with no end to the choppy, full-on drumming and a chaos-laden finale, getting off to a nice start here. ‘Before Time Runs Out’ starts off a pattern to be explored more frequently in the second half with stylish, cold riffing with a mechanical touch off-set by blasting double-bass along the mid-range tempo patterns fitted with rather startling start/stop patterns that continues through the verses with more cold riffing variations that kicks into a more intense pattern on the last half with furious double-bass drumming alongside streamlined and fluid thrash riffing, offering up a solid attempt at mixing the two together and giving the greatest hint of where they want to go in the future. The sparkling ‘Mission of Aggression,’ with blaring air-raid sirens that gradually fade into rather stylish mid-range chugging with sparkling melodies along the guitar melodies with sporadic leads but far more times paced through the heavy chugging in the mid-range tempo with a few choice moments of more fluid patterns laced with a stellar solo section, fine drumming and a sprawling, heavy fade out, making for the album’s best overall track with a fine mixture of thrash elements and a modern sound. The wild ‘Thoughts of Black’ starts with a groovy bass-led intro gives way to heavy stylish chugging that corresponds well to the strong drumming with a fine series of pounding patterns to play off the guitar riffs with thumping bass-lines, tight variations along a slightly up-tempo section and barreling double-bass interplay with sparkling keyboards that thrashes away in the final half through a brief solo and a frantic fade-out, leading to two strong tracks in a row. The first half concludes with the interlude ‘Play Dead,’ a brief, melodic trinkling keyboard work with ominous soundtrack work and a brief sampled voice-over that allows for a nice rest between the halves.
The second half does have a bit less to work with in regards to the energy level of the first part, and while it works in spurts there’s still some troubled spots. One of the brighter efforts, ‘Beyond,’ has a build-up intro with fiery, mid-tempo guitars that turns into an anthem-like pace with fine drumming, stylish chugging riffing with start/stop patterns and melodic lead flurries during a sparkling mid-range solo with dexterous various and patterns, extended riffing and a fine return to the chugging pace for the final half with some extended sections of pounding drumming and chugging guitars, sounding like the tracks on the upper half before we get to the newfound styles in here. One of the first missteps, ‘Calling the Dead (Séance),’ starts off fine with mid-paced chugging with strong drumming and a symphonic approach to the keyboard melodies that really oversell the chugging with a grandiose approach that lies in direct opposition to the slower, more relaxed pace from the guitar patterns that kicks up slightly in the later half with some more energetic riffing patterns but still feels too off to matter, much like a band struggling to find it’s voice early on in their career. A better attempt at this style is made in ‘Helheim,’ as the ambient noise intro collides into tight riffing with boisterous keyboards and sturdy drumming that really struggles to get to an up-tempo pace with the chugging guitars and cold, mechanical drumming atmospheres making for a strong, heavy offering in the mid-range pace with some stylish leads and outbursts of speed in the later half through the strong solos and blasting drumming throughout the eerie spoken vocals, coming off a little better but still lacking in the creative approaches that were featured in the first half. Things come back to life quickly with ‘The More I Lie,’ as the sparkling up-tempo guitars with clanking, rolling bass-lines and furious drumming with far more thrash influence in the patterns that feature into more mid-range chugging in the main sections after the spirited intro as the clanking bass-work and atmospheric keyboards take center stage with sporadic guitar work and fine variations over the guest vocals. ‘Psychonic’ starts with immediate guitar work and tight drumming with furious chugging patterns and mid-range guitars throughout the mid-section work as there’s a series of strong guitars along the sparkling patterns throughout with a brief stop for a spoken vocal section with plodding guitars along the way that picks back up into the fiery chugging patterns through the solo section into the final half, leading to quite a mixed bag with various dull parts alongside some finer segments and is overall quite choppy. The album proper ends with the fade-out ‘Goodnight,’ as an eerie poem read through a creepy voice-over with ominous, creepy grand keyboards for an appropriate finish to this album. Other versions end on a different note with a frenetic cover of Kreator's classic 'Phobia,' which contains the same energy and punch of the original and really does what a solid cover should, seem like a band's original choice all along and not seem like a weird stylish choice to cover.
While there’s some problems to be had with this one, there’s still some fine points to be had with this release and definitely shows signs of a band that more than likely will find its way in the scene and come up with their own original voice. This mixing of symphonic overtones alongside mid-tempo melody-filled death/thrash metal could be a real stand-out way to go for the band with plenty of songs that are geared for such a presentation but a severe lack of effective writing really brings it down, especially in the later half when it’s been ably demonstrated how this band could be in the next few years if they continue on with this approach. As it stands, this release seems geared only for the true, undiscerning melodic death metal fan or those looking to be the cause of a scene champion in the future for there’s enough to make it work, it just needs some time.