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Purple melodies - 79%

gasmask_colostomy, June 13th, 2018

While I think it’s nice that 紫冥 Purple Hell have decided on the shade of underworld they will be heading to, it does confuse me slightly, since I don’t tend to associate purple with anything particularly scary or hellish. Then again, the Chinese five-piece aren’t that scary either despite the vague menace of the dark album cover and the inclusion of a bit of extremity in the music. I don’t want to say the obvious and draw comparisons to Arch Enemy despite the fact that Purple Hell boast a guttural female singer and play a lively form of melodic death metal, so I’ll cite All That Remains and Skeletonwitch as two opposite points of reference. The first should signal metalcore tendencies, though not a habit of indulging in too many scene features (there’s barely a breakdown to be heard), while the latter’s ex-vocalist Chance Garnette is actually a close comparison for 杨波's voice, rasping up from her chest in a mildly evil manner.

However, it’s impossible to ignore the melodies of 蚀生 for long. Some of the songs feature the same kind of aggressive yet uplifting rush that marked out many of the late-’90s era of Gothenburg bands (not really the formative groups in that scene), while there is also evidence of something else on ‘Mum with Sword’ and '离', which respectively try the mournful Finnish sound of Amorphis and a slower and more emotional route that is sort of structured around a power ballad. Chinese popular music is full of power ballads but not really Amorphis, so I don’t think the intention was to sell more albums (not in a country with no copyright laws, anyway), especially since said power ballad moves into harsh vocals after a long clean verse.

In any case, short of discussing different modern and melodic influences for every song, Purple Hell do rather a nice job of making this debut album listenable all the way through. None of the styles drag but rather feel light and spirited, since the thick and deep rhythm guitar is regularly supported by a fleeting dancing lead tone, which comes to a fairly natural conclusion as the band pounce upon Iron Maiden’s ‘The Evil that Men Do’ towards the end of the 36 minutes. The cover suits the band down to the ground though requires a slight adjustment in drumming style (there’s more kick work than the original yet less than on the other songs) and naturally 杨波's harsh vocals, which put me in mind of a very enjoyable Devildriver cover of ‘Wasted Years’. None of these songs feel like a missed opportunity even if not all quite have the hooks to stick in the mind at first, while the brief interlude also proves useful, bridging the gap between heavy material and the clean introduction to the pseudo-ballad.

There’s not anything very special about 蚀生 though that doesn’t prevent it from being enjoyable from start to finish and worthy of investing several listens. Most of the band comparisons I’ve given are references but the sound is not stolen from any in particular, although the last song amusingly does sound the most like Arch Enemy in the late-‘00s. If these guys come to my city, I’m definitely down for seeing them play.

-- May Diamhea's feat of 100 reviews in 7 days remain unbeaten --