without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
While Caledonia and especially Emprise to Avalon are both indisputably all-time classics to me, the short span of Suidakra's discography that bridges them is more nebulous and difficult to categorize. Signs for the Fallen was a more streamlined exercise in melodic death that while not doing much for me on a personal level, kept the flame alive and was consistent as all hell. Next to come down the surging rapids of Loch Lomond was Command to Charge, a true watershed release by the band if there ever was one.
A quick glance at the liner notes hints at promise, as any lineup that features both Antonik and Schoenen will undoubtedly deliver a plethora of burning leads and jouncing rhythms. The lack of keyboards is a concern, but Römer's bagpipes fill the atmospheric void effectively when summoned upon. The true question mark here is the one-off inclusion of Matthias Kupka, whose clean vocal contributions cleaved a derisive heft in Suidakra's fan base. To be honest, he doesn't appear very often, and is difficult to distinguish from Schoenen as-is. The cleaner vocals are less soaring than on previous releases, but they are used in a strategically appealing fashion and are featured prominently. Anything that draws attention away from Antonik's tiring roars here is a plus in my book, as he fails to reach down deep enough to deliver the required level of sepulchral animosity present on Suidakra's other records.
If Command to Charge is anything, it is a deceiving listen. The good tracks are really good, while the less impressive cuts are real snoozers. The group's signature leadwork is still here, but the band often fails to connect the dots in a compelling manner. As a result, the chunky rhythms that constitute the majority of many of these songs plod more than they impress. This is yet another example of a band not playing to their strengths, and while their songwriting chops grant them the privilege of coasting for a while, Suidakra fires more than a few blanks alongside some scorchers on this one.
While the whole ordeal reeks of (then) modern influences, "Reap the Storm" and "Decibel Dance" both embody a different perspective on the band's sound, and undoubtedly work very well. Alternatively, "C14 Measured by Infinity" and "Strange Perfection" land like a ton of bricks. While Schoenen's acoustic ditties are always a nice touch, it isn't until the end of the album that we hit true Celtic gold. If there is one great thing to come out of Command to Charge it is the instrumental "Dead Man's Reel." It may seem like a gimmie, being based on a traditional Scottish song, but the band exercises an enviable measure of malleability by shaping it into a relentless melodic assault on the senses. If someone ever asks "What is so great about Suidakra?" present them with this song and watch them convert before your very eyes. A live staple, and a timeless classic (naturally).
Also worth noting is the first appearance of Tina Stabel on the hidden track "Moonlight Shadow." She has a gritty, great set of lungs on her, and contributes to a decent and unexpected end cap to an otherwise discursive album. While most of the other tracks are more of an exercise in been there-done that aesthetics, Command to Charge is hardly as abhorrent as it is often made out to be. While I still have some nagging concerns regarding the far too crunchy guitar tone and complete lack of the normally pluggy bass input from Riewaldt, this certainly has it's moments and is at least worth a glancing look by any fan of Suidakra. While it is still for the best that the band returned to their previous style with Caledonia, parts of what made that album so great ("Forth-Clyde," "Evoke the Demon") are stylistically indebted to Command to Charge in more ways than one. Has its place.
Being the last to know something can be extremely embarrassing, and as much as it pains me to say it, in relation to the rest of Suidakra’s fan base, I was the last to know about the concoction that is “Command To Charge”. With this has come a very strong desire for a mea culpa in leaving many unknowing readers with the notion that this band has released nothing but top of the line, folk infused melodic death/black metal. Suffice to say, the analogy I made towards this band’s output being on par with the consistency of Black Sabbath is still accurate, it’s just that now I’ve discovered their version of “Never Say Die”.
To be fair, Arkadius and the rest have not tried to merge heavy metal with disco, but have instead gone for something metallic yet almost as banal. The move towards a more orthodox melodeath sound on “Signs For The Fallen” came with an intriguing new angle, but with it came the potential for the band to fall head first into the same commercialized, vapid sound that In Flames did on “Reroute To Remain”. While this album isn’t quite as overtly wimpy sounding and loaded up with unnecessarily happy sounding sections meant to rope in metalcore fans as said album, there is a frighteningly familiar tendency towards the same general character of sound.
Forget about any semblance of the past, or the future corrective measures that immediately followed this album on “Caledonia”, this sounds like an entirely different band, one that studied at the school of Nightrage yet forgot about how to avoid sounding like Machine Head during the semi-grunted clean vocal sections. That’s pretty well the principle flaw of this record, the vocals are an utter train wreck. Arkadius has traded in his signature blackened death bark for a whinny, agonizing wail that sounds way too much like Anders Friden at around the same time this was put out. Alongside this, Marcel Schonen’s chorus vocals sound like a poor version of an Anthrax gang chorus and the band actually pulled in a crappy groove metal grunter as an additional foil to the principle vocals that sounds dangerously similar to Robb Flynn circa “The More Things Change“.
Musically this album is a better story, though at best it functions as a poor man’s “Clayman” with a hint of latter day Nocturnal Rites. The only places where any semblance of the band’s folk roots come through is on “Dead Man’s Reel”, which is mercifully also an instrumental so that spares the 3-fold nails on a chalkboard affect alluded to earlier. The incorporation of Scottish bagpipes adds a slight memory of earlier endeavors, almost like a lone pearl in a sea of faded stones. Beyond this song, it’s generally a question of pick your mediocre poison. Nothing on here qualifies as being downright awful, but most of it is fairly forgettable. It’s almost as if they selected a few of the better songs from the closing days of In Flames’ better musical period and reworked them 8 or 9 different ways and threw in a few token acoustic sections for good measure.
I guess even the best of swimmers have to cramp up and choke once in a while, and thus far Suidakra has only managed to do it once in a 17 year career that has spawned 10 full length albums. Definitely not a record to be ashamed of, though it would be a safe bet that Arkadius probably isn’t trotting out too many selections from this clunker on current tour sets. It’s actually a little ironic that during the same period of time many old guard power metal bands started hitting a creative slump, and along with it so did Children Of Bodom, so maybe something else was at work besides bad judgment, who knows. To put it bluntly, Elvenking had “The Scythe”, Children Of Bodom had “Are You Dead Yet?”, and Suidakra had “Command To Charge”.
Suidakra, usually known for being one of the great folk metal bands, did have one album that seriously diverted from that path…and while I’m never against a band ditching an old style and taking up a new one, Command to Charge is pretty lame, stupid and boring.
The predominant style on this album is pretty much your run of the mill Gothenburg melodeath, so stereotypical it will make you want to put a gun to your head and pull the trigger. There is really nothing on here that sounds anything like the band you heard on albums like Emprise to Avalon and Signs for the Fallen, and what you do get is done very poorly. This is an album full of dry, chugging riffs and horrible, horrible vocals – that’s really about it. The songwriting style has ditched the light-footed, folksy gallop of the previous albums for a more streamlined, straightforward and stomping manner, and the problem is that this really brings out what Suidakra are bad at. Arkadius is not cut out to sing these kinds of plain and simplistic vocal lines, and he sounds like an extra terrible version of Mikael Stanne, without any real power. He’s either bleating in a way that sounds like he has a sore throat, or straining himself with wussy, weak clean vocals that are only average at best, sometimes. Most of the time they're just outright annoying, like scraping a rake on a chalkboard.
The riffs could be OK but the songs are just not that exciting. They’re clumsy and tend to take a long time getting anything accomplished, feeling like they’ve worn out their welcomes after half their length. And there’s just nothing catchy about them either. Every once in a while you get an interesting riff, but it’s never really played out into a whole good song like the band usually does. Every song just keeps going and going, without really providing any hooks or interesting things to listen to. None of these songs are good but lowlights include the irritating yapping of “The Alliance,” the messy and stumbling “C14 Measured by Infinity” and the just plain bad “Second Skin.”
This won’t be your least favorite thing ever, but there are a million better albums to listen to. They just weren’t very inspired on this one; every band has a band album and this was Suidakra’s. Mediocrity, thy name is Command to Charge.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
You will be hard pushed to find anything better in the same genre as these guys. The guitars lay down some crushing riffs that dont fail to grab your attention from the second they start. And yet, besides this sheer assault of heavy riffs, you do get a lot of melody as well, which just adds to the quality of the atmosphere you get when listening to the album. I dislike bands that sound like they have just kidnapped a seal from the local zoo and used it as a stand in singer, and other bands that sound like they have cookie monster on vocals. That kind of thing gets repetitive real quick. Suidakra are different in this way. They have that rough edge to the vocals, yes they do, but they also add clean vocals to the fray they create with each album. And that is what gives the songs more passion as the blend in with the melodic side of Suidakra.. This album is what In Flames should be like nowadays. This album is how you progress musically and it is something to which I would be proud of if I was a part of it in some way like the band. The selection of songs on display here are nothing short of excellent. If I had to nominate one track from the whole album it would need to be: Dead Mans Reel [instrumental]. This might be because I am Scottish though that's why this particular track has a slightly closer seat to my heart [och aye the noo].
All in all this is one fine metal album and it is one album that I would use to introduce new fans to the band. There is no betrayal of their roots on this album. It is still Suidakra giving us quality music as they usually do. They just added a few new ingedients to the pot and it pays off well.
'Command to Charge', Suidakras 7th album is a very experimental one. The band plays with progressive elements (what usually is not exactly my cup of tea) and aims for commercial success. As especially the later is not exactly well-liked in the metal scene, one needs to explain their behavior. These guys produced six albums, not one with even a musical flaw. Yet after six incredibly good albums and tons of excellent reviews, the band is still mostly unknown! The band leader once stated that 'Suidakra' is about a full time job. But as unknown as they are far from being able to make a living with their music. And with the two choices being to get at least some success or splitting up - definitely go for the first one, Suidakra!
Matthias joined the band for this album (and left again after it). He took over the clean vocals which dominate this cd. While most fans say, that Matthias was not as good as Marcel, he's surely doing a good job (though I also prefere Marcels clear vocals).
The band uses bag-pipes on this album which gives it kind of a fresh taste in some tracks. And the hidden track is an good cover version of Mike Oldfield's 'Moonlight Shadow'. A female singer did this track with Suidakra. There are also two acoustic songs on this cd which are very good imo!
-'The Decible Dance' - This is a song where their progressive style kind of fits.
-'Reap the Storm' is a very good song, too. It's fast and Arkadius' and Matthias' vocals fit perfectly together.
-'Dead Man's Reel', a very unique instrumental song. It's hard to describe. You've got to listen to it!
This album is surely not what I had waited for. But the fact that the band will continue (and today they announced 'Caledonia', their next cd which will again be the Suidakra I know and love!) let's you easily overlook the down sides of this album. And then there are also the strong points like the acoustic tracks, the instrumental, the cover song and the two or three not-too-progressive ones.
Go to their homepage, download the sample mp3 and decide if you can live with its progressive character. If you can, consider buying this album. If not - stick to their other albums.
After what seemed like an eternity, April 25th of 2005 heralded the arrival of Suidakra's newest album, Command to Charge. I've long since been a fan of their music and have found them to be one of the more consistent acts in the scene today; constantly evolving from album to album, yet never truly losing sight of their original vision. Now that I've listened to CtC and have given it some time to sink in, I feel that I'm ready to finally speak my mind regarding what I've heard.
The album starts off with the pounding "Decibel Dance", a track that showcases Suidakra's increased use of clean vocals. This, to some, has been seen as a low point of the band's newest sound, but I find that Marcel's singing contrasts well with Arkadius' harsh, static rasp. The chorus here, in a pattern that's repeated throughout the album, is somewhat more "mainstream" in its accessibility and traditional "sing-along" nature, but I find that it's nothing too offensive, even though it's far from my favorite song on the album.
"C14 Measured By Infinity" is up next with an intro that reminds me somewhat of Suidakra's later works, namely Signs of the Fallen, in the way that it builds up with the guitars and drumming creating an almost war-like march. Present, again, are the clean vocals, reminding the listener, for better or for worse, just how much the band's direction has changed. Several parts of this song stick out in my head whenever I think of it, but I didn't feel it was particularly memorable.
"Haughs of Cromdale" is an intro. Not much else to be said. Pipes belt out a reflective, haunting tune before holding the last note and fading right into "The Alliance". The drums and guitarwork continue their trademark stomping rhythm and I'm instantly reminded of why I like Suidakra's lyrics. There's something weird, yet catchy about them. They possess a sort of strange nature that I can't quite put my finger on. This, along with the aforementioned weaving of harsh/clean vocals and the song's finale, make it my most favorite track on the CD.
"A Runic Rhyme" is up next. Acoustic-based with more singing from Marcel. I've never really been partial to their acoustic material, but they do it well and this song, in my opinion, is no exception. Still, this strikes me at least somewhat as filler. Good filler, mind you, and better than quite a bit of other bands' main material, but still filler, nonetheless.
"Second Skin" breaks the thoughtful silence usually set by Suidakra's acoustic material with a guitar sound that starts to become all too familiar. As the band chugs along the five or so minutes of this song, you start to notice patterns in the music and the scenery begins to look the same, as if you're driving around a beautiful neighborhood in circles. It's around here that I became a bit bored, which is unfortunate, but I simply skipped ahead halfway through this track and kept going.
The album's single, "Reap the Storm", met me with the same rhythm that has quickly become this album's distinguishing sound. Marcel's vocals tend to fall a bit short here, especially before the short interlude that lasts from around 1:14 to 1:25. This is repeated again later and is what I often find myself whistling as I go about my daily routine, but despite all of that, "Reap the Storm" is one of the weaker tracks on the album. From the song's title, I expected a bit more, but it possessed a sort of "restrained" quality that I began to see more and more in the rest of the CD as it continued to spin in my computer.
"Gathered in Fear" is the second acoustic song on Command to Charge. I definitely like it more than "A Runic Rhyme" and feel that it embraces the "folk" theme a little bit more; at times grabbing bits and pieces of melody that sound quite a bit like Suidakra's other acoustic works. You may even hearken back to the band's first albums, when their sound seemed driven by the "fantasy" feel which propelled so many others back then and continues to do so today.
After this short break, the album wastes no time in picking the axe back up again and swinging it around wildly. "Strange Perfection" kicks in as the drums make their entrance and the song quickly takes off. The same methodical guitar patterns are here and Marcel's vocals seem more like growls at this point. Arkadius also yells "FUCK!" for some reason before the chorus, which I felt the same way about as the rest of the choruses on this album -- uninspired and, again, somewhat restrained. It did manage to be more memorable than some of the other things on Command to Charge, but whether this is because of the quality on this song or the lack of quality present everywhere else is up to you.
"Dead Man's Reel" fills the slot for the album's instrumental track. I felt it was a bit repetitive, but still good enough to warrant listening to the entire way through. Rather than mix things up to keep the song constantly changing, Suidakra seems to experiment with a few key riffs by placing them in front of various musical backings -- double bass, bagpipes, etc. This repetition may drive some people straight for the "skip forward" button, but after a few listens, "Dead Man's Reel" has it's hooks in me and has become something I play at least once whenever I feel like listening to Suidakra.
The album closes off with "The End Beyond Me". If you've heard everything else here, you've also heard this. The song doesn't really do anything new, but is still sprinkled with the nice guitarwork I've come to expect from Suidakra. The hidden track on here is silly. I'm not even going to say anything else about that.
So, overall, was this album worth the wait? Well, yes and no. As you can see, no one track really sticks out from the rest, even "The Alliance". The catchiness and originality is still present, it's just hidden amidst stretches of the "restrained" sound that I spoke of; a sound that rears its head far too early in the album and gives you the impression that everyone here is just going through the motions. Suidakra has, seemingly upon instinct, refined a certain talent that enables them to put out something listenable even if they are phoning it in, but Command to Charge just sounds too "reined in" for me to like it above anything else, especially Signs for the Fallen.
On top of that, there are several changes made to Suidakra's sound that may disappoint many long-time listeners of their music. These things eventually settled in with me and I grew to like them, but what I couldn't grow accustomed to was the feeling that I had been here before. I often find myself comparing this release to Skyfire's Mind Revolution. It, too, was a rather disappointing album released by an otherwise great band. The same tired, repetitive feeling was prevalent throughout, but it was never really "bad" per se, just lackluster in comparison to everything else the band had done.
Here we are, then, with Command to Charge on our shelves and in our CD players. You might like it, you might not, but I felt it was enjoyable despite my still-present disappointment. I'm praying that Suidakra continues my comparison sometime in the future and returns to their amazing, creative form in short order, just like Skyfire did with Spectral.
One can only hope.