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Admittedly when glancing at the cover of Tyrants and men I get this sinking feeling of horribly bad Viking/folk metal in the Folkearth/Folkodia school. I’d never heard of Thousand Year War before, so for all I knew that could very well be the case. Luckily enough, when popping this into the stereo and pressing play, that’s not what came rumbling through my speakers. Instead, what I heard was the latest Amon Amarth album, having kicked Johan Hegg from the vocal position. At least that’s what it felt like. The first riffing of Defiance sounds uncannily like the latter albums from said band. And as Tyrants and men continues there are tons of Amon Amarth references to be made, from the riffing to the tempo to the vocals.
Seriously, most of Defiance could very well have been stolen directly from said Swedish act, and the drum patterns, drum tempo, riff style, riff pace, vocal patterns, vocal style – it all reek Amon Amarth. I’ve never really been sold on that lot, and it’s only the last couple of albums I’ve enjoyed more than slightly, so I’m not sure how a genuine fan of the band would react to such a blatant copycat act. I guess there’s a chance you’ll either hate it or love it for the tribute it is. But one thing’s sure; I definitely prefer the original.
Leaving that aside I’ll try to focus a little on what Tyrants and men is actually about. As you’ve probably guessed by now it’s a type of mid tempo melodic death metal we’re used to hearing from a particular Swedish band. Most of the material is set in a chugging mid tempo, and the emphasis has definitely been put on the riffing. Speaking of which it’s not that bad, and there’s a good deal of quality to be found here. A track like No gods, no masters is a bit too melodic and cheerful for my taste, with a melodic lead that doesn’t feel convincing and a slow occurrence that really just stinks due to its overly Gothenburg-ness. Open casket is pretty much the same thing, but with a slightly perkier tempo, giving it a desperately needed energy boost, but still falling on the ‘too melodic’ side of melodic death metal.
Now Spartacus on the other hand starts off marvelously with magnificent bass drum action steadily pushing the track forward, and in company with the chugging riffing creates a fairly aggressive touch. And then we have the closer, the title track; Tyrants and men… If only they’d include this blasting a little more often on the album; they’d definitely separated themselves from the obvious influence. The brief occurrences of blasting (courtesy of the magnificent blaster Fredrik Widigs, who we know from Soils of Fate, Repulsive Dissection, MP5K etc) really breaths fresh air into the otherwise too chugging, feeling somewhat stale after a while, recipe. Had this been twined with the, admittedly bloody damn good at times, base style of Thousand Year War (like it is in the opener Defiance) it would’ve felt much more nuanced. While the quality of riffing is good, no doubt about it, the mid tempo style gets a bit tedious after too many songs of the same variant. And it’s also during these more brutal tracks that the vocals get its rightful back-up, working perfectly in the faster aggressive take.
The production is clean and hefty, and actually quite perfect for this type of semi-modern death metal, seeing as it’s clear but not too digital. And as the quality of material is high, although as stated before lacking of variety, I do expect this lot to gain a bit of fame if getting the proper promotion. There’s a certain commercial vibe to this that I think makes it easy to sell, and that is easily appreciated in the general metal crowd. But since I’m much more into the brutal type of death metal, and rarely every fully appreciate melodic death metal I just can’t help but feel something missing, and to me it’s identity.
Originally written for My Last Chapter