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Every once in a while, one must do the laundry. When no washing machine is present, one must go out and find a laundromat. This happened to me just now. This bat had to leave its cave. While waiting, I decided to review the album that would be chosen at random by my iPod. Seems like I’ll be writing in blood today, though I’ll have to find me a victim to provide me with some first…
Soul Reaper, I think, has never been very big. The copy that I own says ‘hard to find’. They aren’t really known to many, and they’ve never gotten the credit they deserved and still deserve. Aside from ex-Dissection members running the band, the whole package just blows my mind every time I give the album a spin (proverbially on this occasion). ‘Written In Blood’ has a strong production and the songwriting is obliterating, but memorable.
The moment you press play, ‘Darken The Sign’ smashes you in the face. This only ups the score: The absence of a sampled intro. In my opinion, most of such intro’s don’t fulfill their purpose very well. The drums sound clean and organic. The snare sounds thick. The bass drum has a round, thick sound which still kicks through the mix. All drum components can be heard equally well. At times though, the bass drum loses some of its power, especially during really dense moments. The bass guitar can be heard pretty good and adds to the music during the right moments. During slower parts, it leads a life of its own. During blast beats, it makes the drums pound even harder. The way the drums are carried by the bass guitar, the electric guitars are carried by the drums. In the mix, it sounds like they are literally on top. Downtuned as they are, they sound more distorted than they should be. This adds to the music because of its raw, aggressive sound. Because of the general production been clear, the guitars add a degree of savagery to the sound.
The songs on this album are extremely well written. They have so much to offer! In general, the music is an aggressive mix of death and black metal. Guitar wise, both genres are equally present. All-round, however, the album sounds as vicious as death metal can get. It’s not old school, neither is it modern. Throw in melodic riffs, which would fit a Dissection album perfectly, and well crafted solo’s and you should have an idea of what ‘Written In Blood’ is all about. As I mentioned earlier, the riffs are both death and black metal oriented. The black metal riffs are written in a way that they sound even more deadly than the death metal ones! This idea has been brought to a new level by the drums. They stand strong in the mix and unleash hell on the eardrums. The drummer does everything he can to keep your attention: original fills, unexpected blast beats, unusual bass drum patterns,… To top it all off, the vocals fit the album perfectly. Christoffer Hjertén was an awesome vocalist but has never been in any other band worth naming, according to the archives. What a pity… The man sounds this possessed, an experienced exorcist wouldn’t come near him. He completely fits both genres the music consists of, but retains a vocal style in between those two. All-round, he utilizes comprehensible growls which can end in semi-screams or deeper growls. His choice of vocal style is spot on every time and never sounds weak or boring. There are one or two instances where the vocals are enhanced, but it surely isn’t a fly in the satanic ointment. Speaking of Satan, this is the theme the lyrics mostly revolve around.
‘Written In Blood’, to me, is like a precious gem that needs to be cherished. Maybe it’s because I’ve owned it since I was teenager, but this album means a lot to me. Up to this day, it’s one of the more unique highlights of my collection. It covers a lot of elements that draw me to this kind of music and therefore is definitely worth checking out!
Dissection had members other than Jon Nödtveidt. You knew that, didn't you? Probably in the back of your mind, but I bet you can't name any of them. Well, when two of the central members on the 'Storm of the Light's Bain' sessions broke off of Dissection, Soulreaper was formed with a rather different musical slant. Somewhat surprisingly, given Dissection's particular musical mold, Soulreaper's debut album is a blast of fairly oldschool, straightforward death metal, massively influenced by Morbid Angel's 'Covenant' as well as, yes, hints of Dissection-style melodic black metal at certain moments. It's not an album that ever really made waves in the underground, but it's certainly a worthwhile, somewhat forgotten slab of straightforward, energetic extreme metal.
The brooding, dark, aggressive strains of 'Covenant' are absolutely all over this record- half the tremolo riffs are ripped straight from Azagthoth's handbook of gloomy, tense numbers from Morbid Angel's third. Tracks like 'Satanized' could be at times mistaken for uptempo numbers like 'Rapture' or 'Pain Divine,' but it's on the slower tracks that the comparison becomes ludicrous: 'Subterranean Might' is an absolutely clear retread of 'Blessed Are the Sick/Leading the Rats' and 'God of Emptiness,' with the same twisted, bending, swaying riffs and sluggish, double bass-fueled drumming. In fact, minus the subtle undercurrent of black metal that pops up at certain moments, this could be considered a straight clone record- the vocals even sound like an imitation of Vincent's most of the time. Still, the strains of Dissection are never too far away, with flurries of blackened arpeggios confusing the sound along with more defined minor key tremolo riffs that sacrifice the twisted vision of Tampa death for something a bit more palatable and Swedish in style. Is anything on here original? No, definitely not- but it's a combination I've never heard before.
For the most part, it works. After listening to this a few times I'm starting to notice this wearing somewhat thing- the more blackened parts tend to drag out the same general riff too long, and the band is definitely at their best churning out ugly, dissonant tremolo riffs over a bed of blasts and double bass, but those parts are good enough to mostly override the occasional misstep the band makes. 'Written in Blood' is definitely not an album designed to stand up to heavy, close listening, but it's a pretty satisfying slab of blackened death metal that more probably should have heard when it came out. It's generally energetic, riffy, and capably performed and produced music, so if you find this in a bargain bin (its most likely location) there's no reason not to give it a try.
What to do when your main band, Dissection, is taking a hiatus for years rather than reaping the rewards of its enormous popularity and potential...let us think upon it. I've got it! We'll create another band which is nearly as good as what that main band has already accomplished, and superior to anything they would put out in the future. Written in Blood was the first of two records from the Swede's Soulreaper, and while the weaker of the two, it was a successful blitz of blackened death metal to which many heads could roll off the chopping block. Though it featured two members of that band, Soulreaper was more about ass kicking than atmosphere, and to that effect, this is a highly successful record.
"Darken the Sign" is a nice thrust of occult death metal with some blazing riff patterns, but for myself, the album really begins with its title track, noisome synths that wind into a sinister, slow black metal riff, which slowly gains force and speed until it morphs into grinding death rhythms beneath the horrific verse.
"Satanized" and "Seal of Degradation" up the brutal ante of the record, the latter being one of the better tracks here, with a combination of sadistic old school rhythms, and brutal fast paced breakdowns. "Ungodly" is a fast paced grinder, not one of my favorites, but "Subterranean Might" makes up for it with some subtle blackenings that weave through the bottom end bludgeoning. The album ends with the 7 minute "Labyrinth of the Death Lord", aggressive and worth a few bloody noses and broken bones.
Soulreaper's later offering Life Erazer is a better album than this, but it was a fresh, bloodied eruption from a few musicians who needed more work. Competent, aggressive, and complex enough to please fans of Dissection and Sacramentum, as well as diehards for straight up brutal death metal, Written in Blood should probably have made a few more ripples than it did.
Highlights: Written in Blood, Seal of Degradation, Labyrinth of the Death Lord
The album can best be described as a brutal black metal + speed metal blend. A combination I love because it cuts the extreme black metal traditions with some more distinguishable grinding rhythms and ballsy chugging, thus giving the material the contrast it needs to maintain a superb level of aggression. In this regard, the whole album delivers.
The first track is relentless, grabbing you by the balls and not letting go. The following track slides over to the black metal side with signature creepy guitar picking lines, but takes the more tempered rhythms of a badass speed metal track over those of a traditional black metal ones… or so it seems, until about halfway through it becomes just a bloody blizzard of crushing metal. The third track continues the hard and heavy, but more straightforward (and the shortest on the album) and ends with a climactic solo. The fourth track is also very heavy and distinguishes itself immediately from its predecessor with a more intricate rhythm, and the short-but-sweet breakdown near to the end reminds you, “this album kicks ass.” Kicking off the next track is a blast beat, followed by churning low-end guitar work whilst the screaming commences. Speaking of the screaming, this track features some different vocal techniques, no clean work, just different ways of doing the death metal thing and near the end a classic kniving-troll-esque black metal voice makes an appearance, setting up the more trudging, deliberate (though not really slow) ending sequence. The second to last track utilizes the same kinds of techniques that were in the previous songs, still skull-crushing. The last track comes off as being a sort of jam track, with a greater number of different rhythmic/melodic/harmonic qualities (all within’ the realm previously established by the album), this one stands at a whopping 7 minutes and chooses to fade out while bashing away rather than fizzle or suddenly cut.
When the album is over you’re left craving more. No, “oh that was nice I’m ready to do something else now.” This is mostly due to the album length, about 35 minutes, but since that last track doesn’t persuade you to drop the severed heads you’ve accumulated you can feel free to plop on any other brutal black-speed-death-hell-kill-fuck album you want and it’ll flow just right. In this regard, since I don’t have, nor have I listened to, the other Soulreaper album… I usually wash it down with the Zyklon album Disintegrate.