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Death metal dreams dashed against the rocks - 50%

autothrall, June 5th, 2018
Written based on this version: 1997, CD, Displeased Records

Nothing says 'death metal' to me quite like a couple dim mountains covered in flowing waterfalls, and these...delicious...logo and title fonts chosen by Dutch unknowns Arcane upon their sole full length recording, fittingly entitled Cascade. 1997 was hardly the dawn for the genre, hundreds if not thousands of death metal bands had logos that took the effort of actually designing a logo, Displeased records was not exactly a newcomer and had released or licensed a good number of albums from better known bands. So, superficially, whatever other qualities Cascade might possess are immediately muted by its outward appearance, its amateurish presentation. That is not ultimately the sole criteria by which I judge an album, mind you, and I've got a number of classics in my collection which are externally hideous, and artistically ill-conceived, but when I'm out combing the dark back alleys and moldy sub dungeons of the underground for hidden gems to cover, something that looks like this hardly breeds confidence...

After listening to the actual music, those low expectations are unfortunately never exceeded. I will admit that the production Arcane achieve here was a little more solid than I suspected. This was basically an early 90s-style death/thrash band, ala Sepultura, trapped in the latter part of a decade in which the genre's evolving brutality and innovation had taken center stage. Wouldn't be much of a problem, if this group wasn't so bloody boring at that style. There's a little atmosphere generated in some of the bridge and lead sections, and the guitar tone is adequate and appreciable, but the structure of the chord progressions and chugging selections are exceedingly familiar, in some sections (like the end of "Open Minds") where it feels like the most banal, dawn-of-S.O.D. level mosh action was a goal to keep any perceived gig audiences moving along, rubbing muscles and bone with another to neglect the fact that what they were dancing off to was so mundane and typical. The drumming is tight without ever becoming too extreme, the bass lines are fluid and flabby enough to thrive at times when you can catch them below the guitars. The vocals have a sort of soulless gruff Cavalera feel to them, though in tracks like "The Hatred in My Confused Mind" they'll throw on some distortion and effects to create something a little more interesting.

Whenever the band picks up the pace to engage the more flightly, thrashing styled riffs, the music is instantly given a small burst of life that leads me to believe they would have been far better off just recording an entire record in that style. There's enough of a clinical sense of melody to give that aesthetic a good balance, but another issue with the record is that it just doesn't stay put long enough in some niche of sound to develop it. For instance, "Welfarestate; Slavestate" moves on to a grooving chord-driven style which seems like a mix of early Green-era Sepultura with Suicidal Tendencies, while "Threatening Me" sounds like pure thrash with the dingier, dirtier vocals and a crossover vibe. For an album that feels like it should have best been marketed for its Sepultura-meets-Creepmime style, it feels inconsistent and noncommittal. Not exactly incompetent, or awful, but the dumbed down rhythm guitar riffing and the lack of really interesting surprises around any corner just make it too easy to overlook in a scene that spawned acts like Sinister, Asphyx, Creepmine, or the godly Pestilence. It seemed dated even for 20 years ago, but not in any memorable or cool 'retro' fashion.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com