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When you try to think of the most brutal yet highly talented Swedish death metal bands of the 1990s, odds are that Linköping’s own Seance doesn’t cross your mind. After all, this is a band that only released two full-lengths in their heyday, Fornever Laid to Rest in 1992 and this masterpiece just a year later in 1993. However, it’s Saltrubbed Eyes that cements Seance’s place as Swedish death metal legends, at least until guitarist Jensen fled the band for the (money) greener pastures of The Haunted.
As soon as you press play, the sounds explode out of the speakers with pure, unadulterated aggression and fury. The brilliant opener, “Soulerosion,” kicks off with all instruments and vocals at full force, a real rarity when you think about it. As soon as you hear it, you get a good idea of what’s in store for you.
The main attraction that this album boldly features is the insanely heavy and loud bass guitar track. I personally find it unreal that the band even decided to go with the sound in the studio, much less leave it that high in the mix. It’s the driving force for the record and takes it to a level of heaviness that no other album has ever reached. No matter what, the sound they get is easily the most brutal bass guitar sound ever recorded, and it can probably kill small animals at close range.
As for the guitars, the riffs are killer (at least the ones that the bass doesn’t rape and leave for dead). Jensen and Tony Kampner really perform well together on this album, and provide some catchy rhythms and eyebrow-raising leads. The drumming is far more than adequate. Combined with the guitars and the aforementioned brutal bass tone, the drums make Saltrubbed Eyes one of the grooviest death metal records ever. If there is a weak spot on the album, it’s Johan Larsson’s vocals. They’re perfectly fine, and they fit the music, but they’re just not quite up to the level of perfection where everything else arrives.
Every song on the album is killer. There isn’t a single track on it that has ever made me think about pressing the skip button. Even the final track, the instrumental “Hidden under Scars” is pure death metal bliss. The performances by the band members are amazing. The groove never goes away. The mix creates the single most brutal, intimidating, heavy, Scandinavian death metal atmosphere that has ever been created. And it’s as close to perfect as you’ll ever hear.
I guess that bands, which managed to debut with such stunning albums like Seance did with their “Fornever Laid to Rest” must have felt a lot of pressure and anxiety while working on their second LPs. Probably they’ve been asking themselves: “will we manage to get it right again and maybe even do better full length?”. As a fan I’ve also asked myself this question quite often and honestly not every band gets the classic formula right two times in the row. There are bands that missed some important ingredients, which were present on their debuts and that resulted in less killer, more average second albums. To be honest this is something I have in my mind while listening to Seance second full length.
Seance debut was a brilliant work; it was a real death metal explosion, which turned everything into ash. Meanwhile “Saltrubbed Eyes” is quite different. Don’t get me wrong here – it’s not different in the same way as Afflicted’s second album compared to their first one, to give just one example. Seance still performs Swedish death metal. There’s just one important detail, which I miss here – “Saltrubbed Eyes” isn’t even half as brutal and uncompromising as the first CD. “Fornever Laid to Rest” was amazingly extreme and fast, slaying with thunderous force, reminding me even some American crews like Malevolent Creation and Deicide. This newer Seance album is slower and more varied, and first of all more tempered, calmer.
I don’t think anyone would compare it to those American bands anymore. Soundwise “Saltrubbed Eyes” is definitely Swedish and is in my opinion really close to what Edge of Sanity was doing at some point of their career. I don’t know if it’s a matter of the similar production or what, but really Seance reminds me Dan Swano’s crew – with the only difference that Seance is less melodic and don’t use clean vocals. “Saltrubbed Eyes” is still quite aggressive record though. But most of it is played in mid paced tempos; some songs like the title track are quite weird and sound like something done by a different band comparing it to the earlier recordings and really remind me both Edge of Sanity and Entombed from their “Clandestine” album; it also reminds this weird hybrid of death metal that Gorefest came up with “Erase” LP.
And such “Angelmeat (Part II)” sounds almost progressive, it’s bizarre song, which I’m not even sure if I like that much. Some ideas or riffs Seance putted on this record couldn’t totally convince me; there’s even an instrumental titled “Hidden Under Scars” which is very unusual for the death metal record. Definitely I like two tracks that open the album: “Soulerosion” and “13th Moon”, which are quite groovy. Luckily there are also some faster tunes like “Controlled Bleeding”, but even this song isn’t as extreme as I expected it to be. There’s also great song called “'Til Death Do Us Join”, which is an old Orchriste track from their demo 1989! It’s odd that such an old song is also my favourite from the entire album he, he, probably because it’s the fastest and most aggressive piece here.
I must say that the album is quite smooth listen as for death metal record. Even though the vocals are still rough this album could speak also to maniacs of more modern thrash metal type of music. As for myself I do enjoy “Saltrubbed Eyes”, it’s a decent album, worth having in the collection, but if I had to choose between this and the previous one, my choice would definitely be the mighty “Fornever Laid to Rest”.
1993 seemed to be a year for change in Swedish death metal, signified primarily by the evolution of Entombed into their full blown death & roll motif via Wolverine Blues, but also occurring in some of the lesser known acts. Seance is one such example, who for their sophomore Saltrubbed Eyes, decided to pack a bit more dynamic punch into their writing than Fornever Laid to Rest. The result is an album that I didn't enjoy quite so much, but it still has a number of worthwhile tracks and characteristics that will often drag me back for a listen. No one should fear that the Swedes have lost their edge, though, for while this album is not the same impenetrable wall of skulls as its predecessor, its still decidedly brutal.
The alterations here are borne not only of tone, but also the rationing of riffs. You'll notice that the bass tone here is enormous, far more prevalent than on the debut, and this is one of the highlights of the album, because there is this constant momentum created that keeps the attention span bouncing alongside the flights of Kampner and Jensen's riffing fury that explode on a tight schedule, as if they were plastique left at regular intervals alongside the concrete supports of the rhythm section. Saltrubbed Eyes shifts between the poles of grinding, blasted velocity and percussive groove, early and often with the Entombed meets Napalm Death overture "Soulerosion", or the start/stop, almost mosh core slog of "13th Moon". "Saltrubbed Eyes" itself is one of the dynamic tracks, plugging along with dumb force as the guitars begin to spike out dire melodic transmissions, but some of the chugging here feels a little too mired in the emergent groove metal of the day.
Far better are the splattering hammers of "Controlled Bleeding", the haunted, developing atmosphere of "Angelmeat (Part II)", and the enveloping grind-off that is "Skinless". I also have a fondness for the closing instrumental, "Hidden Under Scars", which is all dour rock grooves and enormous bass moving at a sluggish upswing, later bursting into Swedish approximation of Bolt Thrower and then an acoustic break. This is an example of diversified strength, and cement proof that Saltrubbed Eyes is a more 'interesting' album than the Seance debut. However, it's just not as solid, nor does it really call to me from the shelf when I'm looking for something so fluid, cryptic and unforgiving. This album doesn't go nearly as far out on a limb as Wolverine Blues, or Desultory's less impressive Swallow the Snake, but there's still a feeling of urban progression, of an attempt to bridge the band's brutality into the grindcore, hardcore and groove metal spaces that coursed through the 90s. Luckily, for all this, it's still pretty good.
There's nothing better than weird death metal. While this stuff is mostly traditional, herein lies the most whompy, dirty, crunchy bass sound ever recorded. It produces that classic early '90s Swedish death sound, but even deeper and twangier. It's not a fretless bass, dunno what they did with it. Anyway, Lord K from The Project Hate would agree with me on this bass. It's the greatest in metal. The drumming also is really interesting, lots of cool time changes and sweet fills.
The music itself is fairly standard Dismember/Entombed type stuff, but they also throw in lots of Konkhra-type death n roll type slowdowns in there. I guess what I'm saying is I dig the whole package. It always surprises you with where it goes, so it doesn't get boring. Death metal as a genre is full of so many generic, boring bands; but when it's done well, it's great. And when it's experimental, weird, offbeat -- even better.
Recommended for fans of: Entombed, Carcass, Dismember, Sigh, Edge of Sanity, Pan-Thy-Monium, Hypocrisy
Not recommended for: People who like shit music
In short ...
Bass -- A (amazing sound, musicianship not as amazing)
Guitars -- C- (nothing special. solos uninteresting)
Drums -- A- (cool fills, unpredictable)
Vocals -- B+ (excellent deep growl, like a bit deeper Swano)