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Just another melodeath album - 54%

gasmask_colostomy, December 7th, 2017

Not exactly a hotbed of metal activity, Austria has at least produced Lost Dreams, a melodeath outfit now six albums into a career that has been in full flow for around 15 years. The five-piece seem to make a virtue of consistency, at least excepting the long gap before most recent album Exhale, since their material and release dates bear a similar sheen despite copious line-up changes. Wage of Disgrace doesn't see the band stretching too far from their European ancestors, a mix of Swedish and Finnish influences blending into a cocktail of modern metal that draws upon At the Gates, Soilwork, and Kalmah. This is - as one expects from that description - fairly standard melodic death metal with a modern touch and a few keyboards.

As a result, it's slightly difficult to pinpoint what marks Lost Dreams out from their peers, since there is nothing very distinctive in the riffing assault to suggest creative thinking, nor much inventive in the way of song structuring to lure in those of a more experimental bent. I would say that the amount of pure death metal utilized during Wage of Disgrace is one slight marker of their non-Scandinavian roots, the fairly brutal exhaled vocals and percussive non-negotiability of 'Never Ending War' edging this towards Soul Demise or Hail of Bullets, though the equation is brought back to less extreme areas when the kind of thrashy groove pedalled by Hatesphere rears its head. The pace of the songs is mostly kept at a medium, relying on hooks in songs like 'Fear Me' and 'Death Machines' that don't always materialize, making a few choruses sound merely like thinking time where the band can regroup to begin another riff. Making the vocals brutal (Stefan Traunig even burps out some low growls on 'Death Machine') was also a questionable idea, especially since the insistent return of melody doesn't need that harsh vocal counterpart all the time, while the synths added to 'Lies' and 'No Demand for Honesty' show signs of a band much more at home with commercial metal styles.

There are more examples than I can name of times when Wage of Disgrace reminds me of other bands and other songs, yet there are not so many credible points to add up for the quality of the album itself. While songs such as 'Aimless' and 'Blood Money' have pacier sections and some memorable parts, I don't find myself pumping my fist (my neck is bad, or else I would use a headbanging analogy) during them, but simply hoping that the band continues on in the same vein instead of changing track to watered down melodies that lose a lot of the momentum built up elsewhere. Perhaps Lost Dreams wanted to increase the complexity of the compositions, but that just seems counter-intuitive when the guitars are pumping out fitting chorus melodies and the singer is clearly capable of a stirring growl. I'm not trying to find fault with the album, but the number of satisfying tracks is barely on par with the number of disappointing or passable ones.

If you're a big fan of the European metal scene and prefer your melodic playing without clean vocals, you could do worse than to check these guys out, though I don't see myself listening to Wage of Disgrace very much in the future. The general aesthetic of the band is undefined and the songs don't bite enough nor stick in my mind, barring some better moments on 'Fear Me' and 'Blood Money', plus the title track, three occasions where the pace and energy are higher and the solos provide a good compliment to the dry roars. This is not bad, just rather generic.