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A strong code for traditional metal - 85%

slayrrr666, July 21st, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Iron Shield Records (Digipak, Limited edition)

Not usually known for its traditional metal acts, Bulgarian heavy metal act Rampart have nonetheless cranked out an impressive catalog of singles and full-length albums, as well as the odd compilation appearance, on their way to this newest release. The fourth full-length from the group, out April 8, 2016 on Iron Shield Records, continues to cater to their traditional mind-set by delivering another enjoyable release in their catalog.

This here is nicely traditionalist-leaning classic metal in their riff-work, full of tight churning rhythms offering plenty of crunchy patterns and steady, solid rhythms that make for a truly enjoyable ode to the heavyweights of the classic period of the early 80s. The numerous tempo and pace changes on display feature some interesting and enjoyable variations with the band able to change-over into steady, simplistic riff-work or a slightly more up-tempo gallop that doesn’t quite border on thrash but offers that kind of energy and cadence when off-set by the churning rhythm work featured elsewhere here. As well, like most classic metal offerings there’s ripping, fiery soloing and plenty of tight, pounding drum-work on display throughout here that makes this quite fun as well with the more spindly, melodic leads found throughout here as there’s a slew of simplistic rhythms here featuring those melodies running alongside the harder-hitting riffing here. This all leaves the album well-enough if not exactly all that original, though what really tends to hurts this is the light wailing siren-like female vocals that are as an acquired taste as any in the genre. It’s not terrible but it takes getting used to this nasal tone and register over the music as this seemingly cries out for at the very least a gruffer tone than what’s featured here. It works nicely in the context of the music once it gets past the point of familiarity, but overall it’s not so bad.

Though the vocals are something that really hinders this one at times, there’s little else about this one to hold it back here as the sound has enough going on for it that this will undoubtedly appeal to fans of good classic traditional metal as well as those curious about metal from the region on the curiosity factor.

Great Music, Horrendous Vocals - 60%

raoulduke25, May 12th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Iron Shield Records (Digipak, Limited edition)

Rampart are a Bulgarian heavy metal band and Codex Metalum marks their fourth full-length effort. Not having heard anything from their previous albums, I can't comment on how well this particular one fares compared to their earlier works, but as far as heavy metal is concerned, there is a lot to like about this album. It's definitely heavy metal of a denser and more aggressive sort, with raw and ragged guitar riffs slicing through the mix. There are a good number of tracks that would even place this closer to power metal as they have a rhythm section that is a good bit faster and heavier than most heavy metal bands.

Coming from a purely musical standpoint, this album is a strong release. The riffs and hooks are wonderfully unique and engaging, and they use contrast extremely well as they swiftly move back and forth from heavier sections to clean ones. But, there is one problem. And it's kind of a big deal. It's the vocalist. I don't know of a better way to describe her voice other than to say that it's weird. Really weird. Try to imagine Björk singing opera with her nose plugged, and that may give you an idea of the utter strangeness of the sound. The thing is she doesn't have to sound like that, and the reason I know this is that there are places where her voice is more normal. On the other hand, there are also places where her voice sounds even weirder.

She sings on pitch. Well, at least most of the time she does. But even when she's on pitch, there are places where she goes into this hyper vibrato mode and it's unbelievably distracting, even to the point of being painful. And then there's this one stretch on “Sacred Anger” where she channels a whispering chipmunk and it's hard to tell how seriously you're expected to take this. I imagine that her voice could be an acquired taste of sorts. There are plenty of vocalists that I now love that took some time to warm up to, and I probably could warm up to her approach if there weren't so many spots where it's just an absolutely grinding listening experience.

Inasmuch as I don't want to spend too much time harping on the vocalist, the problem is that I would imagine that it's the first and only thing that most people are going to take from this release. And that's really a shame because as I said before, from a purely musical standpoint, this is a strong record. It's rare to see so many good things in an album all at once, and that's probably what makes it even worse in a way. Just as soon as you get used to a sweet, ripping intro, the vocals come in and dump a gallon of sour milk all over your face. If you fancy yourself having a stronger constitution than most, check it out for the riffs alone. If you can get past the singer, there's a lot to be enjoyed here.

Originally written for The Metal Observer.