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An average-to-decent release, with a bad producer. - 60%

Pr0nogo, October 12th, 2012

Meridian, a five-piece melodic death metal band from Australia, released their debut EP in May, 2012. The EP, a self-titled, self-released effort, is home to keyboards, screamed and clean vocals, evocative leads, and solid drum and bass – the things that make melodic death metal an enjoyable genre to most people. The only foreseeable problem with Meridian, then, would be execution. What do they sound like? How well do they play? Perhaps the most important question of all, though, is merely this: do they sound good when they come together? In other words, is their first impression greater than the sum of its parts?

The answer I arrived at is somewhat conflicted. I enjoyed a lot of this twenty-two minute release, which is brief enough to be a fun little effort at melodic death metal (and I don’t say that in a condescending manner, either). Each member of the band has their fair share of the spotlight when it comes right down to it; the guitarists, for example, are able to belt out very strong riffs, powerful leading passages, and proficient solos. The guitarwork in particular on this album feels very strong, albeit held back somewhat by the production of the EP, and serve well to provide a powerful framework for song structuring and mixing. They certainly don’t lead the mix, but they allow the rest of the band’s sound to fall into place as easily as possible.

The harsh vocals are a collection of well-executed mids and lows that are typical of the melodic death metal genre at this stage. Despite being typical, however, the vocals are powerful enough to stand on their own. I feel that they don’t particular compliment any part of the sound, and I definitely attribute that to the production. The same effect happens to the clean vocals, which show promise but lack the necessary oomph thanks to the flat and rather generic production. It’s a shame, too, because the mastering is supposed to show off the talents. Instead, I got a demonstrated that sounded half-hearted, merely because the band’s skills hadn’t been aptly demonstrated by the mixing and production.

Aside from the production – as it can be ignored, to an extent – the biggest issue I have with Meridian’s debut is the electronic keyboard effects. There is a keyboardist credited, so you can rest assured that they aren’t programmed, but the physical sound is what turns me off. There are more tasteful gestures made during the later tracks, particularly “Virocon”, but early on they just killed most of the positive thoughts I was having. Let me tell you this; forcing someone to ignore a loud portion of a song in order to appreciate the talent behind the rest of the band is not the way to go. Ever. Add that to your “things not to do when forming a band” list.

The drums are very flat in sound, due in no small part to the mastering of the EP, and a closer listen doesn’t really reflect a lot of skill there in the first place. They get the job done – the drum fills aren’t very imaginative, they don’t contribute a whole lot to the rest of the sound, and the production reminds me of the thousand pro-tool deathcore acts I get on a weekly basis. The bass is inaudible and might as well not be there, because if it is there, its effect is limited to the point of near-uselessness by the production. As you can see, I’m no fan of Meridian’s producer. Whoever they are, they fuckin’ suck.

Now it's time to answer my question: is Meridian's first release greater than the sum of its parts? I told you my answer was conflicted. Skill is implied in the vocals. Knowledge and experience is implied with the structuring. The solos are proficient, so the Australians know how to play, at the very least. Honestly, though, I just can't answer the question definitively; the production makes everything too damn flat. It really is a shame, too, because I wanted to like this record. I just can’t really enjoy the sound at this level. It needs to be produced better. It needs to be ironed out. It needs to evolve. So, Aussies, go evolve; no kangaroos on your next release (unless it’s Kangaroo Jack! I owe him some money).

Recommended Tracks:
1.) "Children of Rust"
3.) "Virocon"
4.) "Let Go"