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True Gothic Metal - the way it should be - 80%

TrooperOfSteel, November 18th, 2012

Seemingly lost in limbo over the past few years, Germany’s true gothic metal band, Crematory, looked like slipping from the metal limelight after what was an impressive beginning to their career and subsequent releases in the 1990’s. However, after yet another direction change (this one for the better), Crematory have returned to full force, delivering of their best albums to date, entitled ‘Infinity’.

Starting out as gothic death metal from their debut in 1993, Crematory changed direction to industrial gothic metal in 1997 with their ‘Awake’ album, but still including elements of their gothic death metal style from the previous 3 albums. The ‘Awake’ album also featured, for the first time, secondary clean vocals to coincide with the original gruff vocals of “Felix” Stass, that being Lothar Först.

This progression moved further on the next album ‘Act Seven’, with the clean vocals now being performed by guitarist Matthias Hechler, who had replaced Först in 1998. The death metal element was dropped for a more industrialised true gothic metal sound; featuring more keyboard-driven tracks but still maintaining a heavy crunching guitar riff backbone. Another progression revolved around Crematory’s next 2 albums ‘Believe’ and ‘Revolution’, where (more often than not) the clean vocals became the primary lead, while the gruff vocals were used mostly in song’s choruses. Electronica and dance beats were also incorporated into the mix, with some songs sounding more like a hybrid version of fellow German band Rammstein than anything else. While fans were questioning what direction this band was heading in, they all could agree that their cover of Metallica’s “One” is one of the best Metallica covers heard in a long time.

Fans seemed to lose interest in the band after ‘Revolution’, with their second all-German lyrical album ‘Klagebilder’ failed to make an impact, passing through the metal world in silence like a tumbleweed in the breeze. While Crematory’s 2008 album ‘Pray’ was a strong step back in the right direction, with a return to their sound reminiscent of ‘Act Seven’, most fans failed to notice the form turn-around. Now Crematory’s 11th and latest album is upon us, and I can say that ‘Infinity’ is a diamond in the rough, with Crematory releasing their best album (aside from ‘Pray’) since the late 90’s.

The first thing you’ll notice on ‘Infinity’, is that it is a continuation from ‘Pray’, meaning a more modern European true gothic metal album with heavy bass, chunky and complex guitar riffs, keyboard melodies (containing creative and dark undertones), and most importantly, no electro or dance beats. The industrial element has also taken a backseat, giving a more natural and stripped back feel, while Felix Stass’ gruff vocals makes an prominent return to the forefront; however still sharing time with the emotional, melodic and melancholic clean vocals.

It is easy to hear that Crematory have a fresh attitude towards their music and the 10 powerful tracks on ‘Infinity’ is the product of this attitude. In a genre that was heading towards the softer side of gothic metal, Crematory have remained strong and passionate, driving home an album with blunt force to shake the gothic metal masses. Crossing over into doomy waters has helped this band re-ignite their flame, delivering tracks containing no “cliché” attributes that typical goth metal incurs today. The bottom line is that ‘Infinity’ is catchy, appealing and very well crafted; producing a disc of what true gothic metal should sound like.

Crematory covers another band on this album and this time it is 80’s synth-pop band Depeche Mode, with the song “Black Celebration”. Like Metallica’s “One”, Crematory does another outstanding rework of the track and “Black Celebration” is one of the better tracks on the album. Starting with the title track, “Infinity”, it contains a memorable melancholic chorus while the heavy crunching guitars are a standout. In my opinion, however, the best track on the release is “Sense Of Time”, which is quite similar to “Tears Of Time” (from ‘Illusions’), incorporating a “spoken-word” segment in the verses, while the howling guttural growls are released in the chorus alongside Hechler’s melodic vocals. Overall, the track is quite catchy, with light guitar riffs and eerie keyboards in the verses and heavy bass and crunchy guitars in the chorus. Other tracks to pump your fist to on the release include the fast-paced and heavy “Out Of Mind”, the fierce “Never Look Back”, the fire-breathing, death metal sounding “Where Are You Now”, and lastly, the final track (sung completely in German) “Auf der Flucht” (“On The Run”).

‘Infinity’ (if you haven’t worked it out by now) is an excellent album and easily one of Crematory’s best. This album, including ‘Pray’ (which fans should really check out as well as this release), is a welcomed return to form for this German band. Surviving many trends in the gothic metal genre over the years, Crematory have emerged stronger than ever; injecting new life not only into themselves, but also the genre which they have been a part of for almost 20 years. Picking this album up is a no-brainer, particularly fans of the band and also fans of true gothic metal and melodic death metal.

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In the mood of a compilation album - 65%

kluseba, October 6th, 2010

After the atmospheric and eerie masterpiece "Pray", Crematory come back with a new record not even two years after the last one. Having bought this album in its very interesting limited box set (1000 kits worldwide, just like the two previous box sets) format with a t-shirt, poster, sticker, autograph card and patch, I normally expected much from this album but this one couldn't meet with my high hopes and expectations.

First of all, from the beginning of the title track on, you will already recognize the main problem of this album: it doesn't have a continuing mood or very strong atmosphere and the band even copies itself and sounds exactly like on their earlier album jsut before their split-up almost ten years ago.

This album is much heavier than the previously released "Pray". The title track "Infinity", still one of the strongest ones in here, gets in a more metallic direction and "Where are you now" is almost thrash metal orientated and maybe the heaviest and most agressive song that this band has ever written. Those songs of the album go partially back to the death rootks of the band.

On the other hand, you have very soft, maybe too quiet songs like the ballad "Broken halo" which is just sung by guitar player Matthias Hechler and even though this song tries something new, the typical growls and typical atmosphere of the band is missing here.

And then, you have a lot of songs where the band just repeats itself. "Sense of time" is a quiet catchy song without any doubt but it sounds like a mixture of "Left the ground" and "Tears of time". The Depeche Mode cover "Black celebration" tries in vain to copy the spirit of the original version and the band maybe tried to copy its success with the Sisters of Mercy cover "Temple of love" who has become a scene hit and one of the band's most well known songs, but the attempt completely fails. "Auf der Flucht" tries to be the band's typical ballad and repeat the success of their German language albums "Crematory" and "Klagebilder" but it has neither the class of the bands previous ballads, nor the innovating and fresh atmosphere of their first songs in German and has sadly to go down as a fail.

As I said, the main problem of the album is that it has no straight line, no certain atmosphere and it works more like a compilation album, as if the band had taken unused songs from several recording session, rearranged them and put them on one album. From the boring radio ballad and uninspired cover version to two songs partially sung in German and a few heavy thrash-death metal orientated songs, you really get almost everything on this album and if you just take the song itself and listen to it, you may really like it and look at it from another point of view, but as a whole album, this doesn't really work. If you accept that this album is nothing new and innovating and copying the different styles that the band has used throughout its career and listen to it like if you would listen to a compilation album, you could really like it though and may give it a try.

And this compilation style is maybe another advantage. If you don't know much about this band yet and you want to discover how they can sound, this album will show you many interesting and different ways. For new fans, this record may be a great occasion to get into the world of Crematory and from an objective point of view, this record may be even more adequate for new fans than for the traditional Crematory fans. In that way, this album still offers you a lot to discover.

After all, I have accepted the compilation style of this album after a while and discovered a few really catchy songs, especially the first three ones of the album which everyone would like who really appreciates this band, and I finally don't regret my buy.

How heavy and soft meet in the middle - 100%

twan666, April 13th, 2010

Germany's Crematory have been around for some time, debuting in 1992 with their album "Transmigration" and then releasing about eight other studio albums until reaching 2010 with "Infinity". Comparing the two, "Transmigration" was a lot rawer where "Infinity" is more modern, thanks to cleaner production and a better range of electronic sound. With their newest album the band has perfected their melodic gothic death metal sound through catchy rhythms, dual vocals, and an extensive use of keyboards. Think Katatonia meets Scar Symmetry and you pretty much have a pretty good idea of where Crematory stand at the moment.

"Infinity" opens up with the title track; a melodic monster that offers a few surprises. The guitars have that gothenburg tone to them, the vocals trade between semi growled and harmonic clean vocals, and the synth and keyboards add plenty of atmosphere. There's even some female vocals in the background that make the music sound even better; sadly they only are shown on this one song. The following track is a bit slower than "Infinity", mostly because it is strongly keyboard influenced and holding melodies that are similar to the recent work of melodic death metal masters, Dark Tranquility, hence the gothenburg sound. The clean vocals sound very majestic here and the growled vocals are even done in more of a harsh spoken word tone which adds even more to the gothic elements. The Depeche Mode cover of "Black Celebration" still holds true to the 80s band's original electronic intent, but Crematory turn up the guitars and add their own metal flare to make the music sound melodically heavy and suitable for almost any metal fan without tarnishing the original influence.

Not everything on "Infinity" is about being heavy, though. "Broken Halo" is one of the slowest tracks on the album with the guitars in focus on string picking rather than chords and the drums being set to a percussive trance. The keyboards are extremely symphonic here and the use of having both the vocals singing rather than the alternative sing/growl is even better than the latter. Of course, if they say opposites attract it must be true because Crematory decided to make the following track one of their heaviest, with "Where Are You Now?" being extremely guitar focussed and have heavy, crunching riffs that sound more like thrash rather than melodic death or gothic. It just goes to show the band knows how to show both ends of the spectrum while also meeting in the middle with the rest of the other tracks. However, the final track- the only one in the band's native germanic language- is the best example of how heavy and soft meet in the middle. Everything on this track is about melody with the guitars and vocals, and the keyboards sound more classical than electronic. Much more real, much more effective.

Fans of Borknagar, Soilwork and Scar Symmetry will find a strong liking to this album. It's no surprise as most of Crematory's records were on the Nuclear Blast label before they switched to Massacre. Whether they drew influence from their fellow label bands or not remains to be seen, but it is obvious they are a strongly melodic band that are just as good, if not better, than their counterparts. Melodic death metal certainly has a reigning point in Germany thanks to these guys.

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