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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.