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they have "arse" right in their name - 52%

Cheeses_Priced, December 27th, 2004

On the one hand, times have changed, and on the other hand, the more things change the more they stay the same, and since neither metal bands nor their fans seem eager to give up entirely on tradition, older styles of metal keep getting fresh coats of paint. Had this album been released fifteen years or so ago with a different singer, slower drums, and without all the guitar squeals and tremolo, it probably would’ve been labeled thrash or just heavy metal without much of a second thought. If it had higher-pitched vocals, backing keys, and the band wore dopey makeup and sang songs about the Devil, we’d call it “melodic black metal”. As it stands, the vocals are mid-range growls, tremolo is present (but used sparingly), the drums are fast but not outright blasting… and so, “melodic death metal” it is.

I use the term by convention, naturally, as I can’t imagine straight death metal being a primary influence on these guys. Well, whatever…

But anyhow, as you might have guessed, this is probably going to remind you of what’s been coming out of Gothenburg for what, almost a full decade now? – or perhaps Heartwork-era Carcass or the last two Death albums. I think I could’ve pegged this band’s origin without having been told, as there’s something about this music that sounds distinctly American to me – it’s far more aggressive than most comparable Swedish bands, and the band’s melodic style thankfully wanders away from working through every possible permutation of the guitar leads in “Infinite Dreams”, sometimes wandering into slightly experimental or technical territory. Observe in particular the weird warbley riff that kicks off the very first song, which is probably my favorite moment on the entire album. Thankfully, there’s no metalcore here, as opposed to much of the current wave of American bands, and there are no cutesy stabs at novelty. Only metal.

It’s the sort of album that tends to provoke comments like: “this is music that will appeal to every kind of metalhead”. I never could figure out how that was a compliment – it’s a hair away from saying the music’s middle-of-the-road or pedestrian. Frankly, I’d rather listen to something that would piss off most metalheads. Why come this far just to look back? This is straight-up riff-oriented metal modernized and re-imagined for the twenty-first century, a very competently made statistical mean of all the newer interpretations of the heavy metal sound – for better or worse. It doesn’t fail at its goal, but I can’t say it does much for me.