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Diamhea, January 31st, 2014

So this is where Galder has been hoarding all of his decent riffs. Despite his lame phoned-in tenure in Dimmu Borgir, he was wise enough to keep Old Man's Child alive, occasionally returning every couple of years to cash-in his accretion of ideas. In Defiance of Existence embodies a stylistic cross-section, merging symphonic passages akin to early-era Limbonic Art with more measured, riff-driven cookers and a more spirited vocal assault. Galder's surging, macerating riffs scream of death metal more than anything, occasionally featuring ethereal passages and murky tremolo sections that are efficiently paired with Barker's triggered, spastic performance on the kit.

In Defiance of Existence comes off as a heavier, slightly more animated twin to Spiritual Black Dimensions. The symphonic approach on the keyboards is eerily similar, but features very little of the insincere pomp that Mustis is now famous/reviled for. The swelling synth lines that open "The Soul Receiver" merge potently with the scorching distortion and Galder's robotic intonation. The song features some decent descending riffs and arpeggio runs, becoming the best cut here by the time it wraps up. "The Underworld Domains" is more of a throwback to Old Man's Child's earlier material, featuring a more straightforward melodic black tremolo barrage and a quicker tempo overall. Even still, the modern trappings injected into the verses end up giving it an appeal that wouldn't be present otherwise, as operatic cleans soar high and mighty over Barker's deliberate patterns.

Most of these compositions are rock-solid, almost to a fault. "Life Deprived" sounds formulaic at first, but the ascending powerchords right before the requisite breakdown resurrect it's potential. "Felonies of the Christian Art" is more traditionally symphonic, building tension until around the 30-second mark, at which point Barker blasts through the space-time continuum behind the grotesque inclination of the riffs. As a wise man once said: Headbang now, survive later. Even the solos, which are normally an afterthought, exhibit great melodic and emotive appeal. The boomy, modern aesthetics of the six-strings demand attention, as they are rarely challenged for the spotlight by Barker's dribbling double-bass and the brash synths.

As stated above, consistency and calculated abandon are the order of the day in In Defiance of Existence's case. So much so that nearly every song here is interchangeable and difficult to tell apart. The one with the surging synths? "The Soul Receiver". The one with the fluttering leads? "Agony of Fallen Grace". Or was it the title track? See what I mean? With the exception of "The Soul Receiver", none of these tracks stand head-and-shoulders above the rest. It is impressive but frustrating at times, as you get the sense that Galder can deliver something really amazing if he focused just a modicum more and honed the compositions to a finer, more venomous point. As it stands, In Defiance of Existence still makes a strong case for the continued existence of Old Man's Child: Norway's true melodic black metal export.