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so sweet it gives you a headache - 77%

RapeTheDead, September 5th, 2016

This certainly made me do a double take the first time I caught wind of it. A supergroup featuring members and ex-members alike of Arsis, The Absence and Black Dahlia Murder, all trying their hand at power metal? Don’t mind if I do! Jewel of the Vile is melodic death metal in candy form, and that is both its strong suit and its weakness. One or two tracks and you still feel great and want more, but by the end of the album you’re going through a sugar crash.

While I've heard a few people complain that the vocalist lacks power and/or grit, I think the vocal style used is preferable to Halfordesque wailing in this situation. When extreme metal musicians make the switch to heavy/power metal, it often sounds a tad more restrained and self aware because, to some degree, the style does call for less batshit insanity than death metal would. Usually this makes the artists sound sluggish, old and tired, but Necromancing the Stone made an album that still has that youthful zeal even though the songs and riffs are rather ordinary on their own. Perhaps it helps that the vocalist sort of just came out of nowhere while most of the other musicians have played in bigger bands, so he has a little bit more to prove, but he's also working with musicians who are very comfortable and calculated. His clean, sustained pitches remind me of the guy from Visigoth if he had a slightly higher natural range, and he’s one of my favorite modern heavy metal vocalists, so that’s always a good guy to be compared to.

The riff style is one that you could see traces of in Malone's songwriting as far back as Starve for the Devil. Hearing Jewel of the Vile, though, one gets the impression this was the sort of music he's really wanted to play since then. The thrashy 80's-style whimsicality mixed with James Malone's signature style actually ends up sounding a lot less forced than some later Arsis albums. Celebration of Guilt is a melodic death metal classic and there's so way Malone's ever really gonna top that album, so opting to play straightforward heavy metal seems like the best route at this point. Most of the songs follow standard structures based around a chorus, and though catchy, they're easy to burn out on if you overplay them. "Ritualistic Demise" utilizes a slightly different approach to a much greater effect, but it's one of only a few curveballs thrown on Jewel of the Vile. For the most part, this album is just straightforward rockin' fun.

I was ready to call this James Malone's next magnum opus after the first few spins all the way through, but I will say that the quality of this does fade a bit over time. That'll usually happen when the choruses are as infectious as the ones on "Siren's Call" or "Crusher", but at the same time, this isn't quite challenging enough to make it sustainable as a listening piece over long periods of time. As fun as this is, I do worry a little bit that this was just sort of a one-off between a few established musicians looking to have some fun, jam out a few tracks, and call er a day. Maybe if I see new material down the line, I'll be inclined to think differently, but at the very least the end result of this experiment is quite a bit of fun to listen to. There's a couple moments with harsh rasps and some more thrashy death metal riffs, and this does have a bit of a meatier edge than typical power metal, so there's certainly more than enough to enjoy here for both fans of Arsis and power metal. But as much as sugary hooks may satisfy your cravings briefly, they always leave you wanting more...

(Originally written for The Metal Observer)