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The embrace of the Phoenix - 95%

TheSkrypter, May 1st, 2012

According to the band’s description, they started out as a death metal act and ended up being goths (or something in the vein). Well, this album marks what might be considered the crossing of the bridge between those two genres. It is actually a melodic death metal album, way more down to earth and less eclectic than their earlier doom/death metal records; on the other hand, it is still clear out of the trance electronics that characterized later works. I would say this album marks the band’s finest hour.

Having been released in 1996, this album fits perfectly the Swedish melodic death metal hype of that time, alongside In Flames or Hypocrisy, who in 1996 released ‘The Jester Race’ and ‘Abducted’ respectively. ‘Sundown’ doesn’t have, however, that level of aggression we can find in Hypocrisy’s songs at that time; it sounds a bit more like the aforementioned In Flames’ opus. The vocals are quite similar to Paradise Lost’s Nick Holmes on their 1995 ‘Draconian Times’, but Cemetary’s vocalist (and mastermind) Mathias Lodmalm sings in a less guttural fashion, not even lowering the tones, but merely giving his chords a somehow dirty grasp which allows the listener to completely understand what he says.

The guitars are excellent, but they never take on the brutal side – they are, above all, melodically heavy and somewhat technical, especially regarding the solos, which take on a very interesting feature: if you are completely interned into the melody of the songs, you will not notice them. This does not mean that they are obscure or weak; on the contrary, they are excellent guitar work completely melted into the natural flow of the rhythmic parts; the solos are discrete because there aren’t bridges to break the melodic dynamics of the songs, the lead guitar just takes on a riff line and from there a solo appears. That alone is excellent, because it creates homogeneity into the songs that will make you feel each song instead of just listening to them. The riffs are quite simple, nothing too fancy or complex, but they work great in the whole of each song. The bass sounds as if it was a down tuned guitar, but that is OK, because it keeps the songs compact and heavy enough. The drums are focused mainly on mid tempo structures and paces, they never run too fast nor do they blast beat, but they keep up with the guitars and maintain an overall fluid dimension throughout the whole album.

As a whole, this is definitely one of the most melodic death metal albums ever, one that leaves wide open the way for the gothic elements present in albums such as My Dying Bride’s ‘Like Gods of the Sun’ or Tiamat’s ‘Wildhoney’. This is definitely an album that suits those days when you really want to listen to something within the death metal range, but without the fierce brutality or raw aggression; this is a perfect album for a day when you have a lot on your mind and being brutal just doesn’t feel the most adequate state of things. And there are songs on this album that will just keep you in good company while your mind focus on something else, like ‘Ophidian’ or ‘Primal’. Towards the end of the album there are slower songs that carry a sense of weight and of doom at the same time, but not that sort of melancholy or obscure kind of doom, instead those are just songs that give an urge to frown and give it a thought on the misery that either rampages loose upon the Earth, or that dwells in you and never lets go. Stand out songs are definitely ‘Elysia’, ‘Last Transmission’, the title track, ‘Primal’ and ‘New Dawn Coming’.

All in all, a very good and extremely melodic death metal album with a huge amount of paced down songs and quite fit for contemplation.