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It takes quite an impressive résumé to scrape together a debut like Sot, and judging by the band's membership they have it. The Few Against Many is a collaboration between members (and ex-members) of numerous Swedish contemporaries such as Angel Blake, Incapacity, DivineFire, Demiurg, The Duskfall and others. The strength of this new project is its willingness and ability to throw away every rule in the book and re-invent itself as a brand of progressive, melodic death metal which is sure to turn heads.
Sot sounds simply staggering, with one of the better studio mixes I've heard lately. Almost every note is placed perfectly, whether it's the bouncing or churning rhythms, the symphonic touches, the leads or the bruising vocals of Christian Älvestam. Most of the lyrics are in Swedish but a few, and these exceptions were penned by Jonas Renske (Katatonia) and Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquillity). It doesn't hurt that each of the 8 tracks and 36 minutes of this album is bristling with memorable hooks. "Hädanfärd"opens with a volley of glorious chords that switch into blasting below the sparse accompaniment of symphonic sweeps. The song simply destroys. "Bränd Mark" forces itself along a steady road of guitars with an edge of synth-laden atmosphere, both majestic and sorrowful. "Blod" chugs out with the energy of Soilwork in their prime (Natural Born Chaos), with that same sense for progression and interplay between the proggy synths and the guitar work. Other highlights include the grand thrust of the title track "Sot", the hook infested "Heresi" and the slow but powerful closer "One With the Shadow".
The Few Against Many prove that they are a class act, with an album more mature and satisfying than most of the members' past work combined (no offense intended, folks). Sot is an album that should appeal to melodic death fans who demand something different than the usual At the Gates worship. I can draw slight comparisons to Edge of Sanity's Crimson II or mid period Soilwork, but really they do little justice to what is on disc here. You won't want to miss this.
The Few Against Many come from Sweden, Christian Älvestam is on vocal and rhythm guitar duties, and Melodic Death Metal is the name of the game. Those three statements (as well as the band name) might usually be enough to make me yawn, scratch my stomach and move on; Scar Symmetry and Solution.45 aren't exactly inspiring, and for my money Zonaria are pretty tedious as well. One listen to Sot however and I had found a new respect for this hardworking Swede. Älvestam is joined by bandmates from Solution.45 on drums and bass, and Pär Johansson of Demiurg has an entirely new position created for him - he's on backing vocals, and listening to the monstrous vocal assault on Sot the price of an extra employee was well worth it.
The Few Against Many serve up just over half an hour of boiling, furious Melodeath that combines a dark and heavy rhythm section with urgent, rapid riffs and deep, guttural growls from the two vocalists. The eloquent yet percussive words of the Swedish language (used for the lyrics of all but two songs) do an excellent job adapting to the vile sounds spewing from Älvestam and Johansson. Some of the riffs used are those guilty-pleasure ones that occasionally come along in a song by Scar Symmetry, where you start to enjoy yourself until a crappy chorus comes along and ruins Christmas for everyone. Here such catchiness is left unadulterated, simply providing a contrast to churning, thrashier riffs. More Old School influences come through in the eerie, strangled guitarplay of 'Abider' and the beautiful classical guitar solo of the title track.
Sot also makes use of jumpy, synthesized strings that accentuate the violent guitarplay in songs such as 'Skapelsens Sorti' and 'Abider.' While keyboards are hardly breaking news in the world of Melodeath, here they are used to much greater effect than in the typical bands of the genre - mostly because of their minimal role. Elsewhere, such as in 'Heresi', retro-sounding keyboard whines emphasize the choruses - often the only immediate indication of a chorus, the songs are far less structure-reliant than your garden variety Melodeath. The opener 'Hädanfärd' for example, is little more than a swift, brutal manifesto of intent, a spontaneous explosion of roars and riffs that prepares you for what is to come. Bränd Mark and the title track are epic, complex pieces that nonetheless sound immediate and take no time in hooking the listener.
Although there is plenty of melody, even some downright catchy moments, everything about this album feels like Death Metal. From the '90s style album cover by veteran Dan Seagrave, to the menacing guitar tone and the ferocious, blasting drums, this is one of the few Melodic Death Metal albums that successfully communicates with the eclectic origins of the genre. Amongst a horde of bands who attempt it, The Few Against Many elegantly mesh the melodic sensitivities the genre extracts from NWOBHM and other classic Metal with the visceral, downtuned brutality of Death Metal's forefathers.
One of this year's essential, definitive Death Metal releases, a syringe of adrenalin that grates through bone and flesh to puncture the heart and deliver its payload of adrenalin.