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It partly slays, but can also get so darn generic - 67%

Lane, March 8th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Independent (Digipak)

Slechtvalk, a Christian metal band from Netherlands, have unleashed their fifth full-length album to date. The band's craft is not soft, preaching or anything one would expect from devoted Christians. No, they come wielding with Norse style extreme metal, like the alluring cover artwork shows. So drink that mead and grab yer sword, or whatever is your weapon of choice!

Some label the band as a viking metal band, but that's a paradox! They do not sing about vikings, and vikings were pagans to them anyway. This takes us fluently to the album opener 'We Are', which owes almost everything to early Amon Amarth, as does 'Betrayed' and 'Homebound'. Music-wise, these three songs are closest mimics of those Swedish vikings. Rapid double kick drums assaulting, fast shredding riffs, as well as similar note progressions. The energy output is huge and berserking at best. So, therefore the band has been labelled as viking metallers, I guess. However, barking and rabid black metal style vocals are different to Amon Amarth. And the lyrics, which are mostly about war and suffering, can be associated with vikings, Christians, atheists, Satanists, whatever; they are universal.

'Asternas' slows in pace and brings in ominous vibe with its sweeping lead guitar work over heavy palm-muted riffage. This is the most original song on offer, in my opinion, even though it features parts with Norse black metal techniques, including tremolo riffing and blast beating, never forgetting that melancholic mood. Epic, aptly-titled battle-wards song 'March to Ruin' and dark melancholy of 'Wandering Shadows', still being a sturdy song, are other slower pieces here.

Then, what is left are the faster ones... Many are about mid-1990 style extreme metal, but not just Norse way. There is Behemoth, God Dethroned, Dimmu Borgir, Cradle Of Filth, Naglfar, and whatnot influences happening. It never gets chaotic, like, say, Belphegor, but Slechtvalk kept it more clean and simple. Surely, tempo changes and fluctuations in pace happen in these, too. The main critique must be aimed at the songwriting, which is predictable, and while including some cool riffs and bits, just too generic.

The guys can handle their instruments well, and the vocals are able. The band sounds tight on this album. Memorable guitar soloing is plus. Synthesizer and effects are used rather infrequently, and more like spicing. Piano, choir synths, ghastly voices, epic horns and such. Together with aforementioned black metal vocals (many styles, from shrieked ones to bark and everything between) there is clean vocals, which remind of Falkenbach. Sung from atop of a mountain, you know?!?! The production is loud, but every instrument is well heard even during heavier parts; it never gets clogged.

While Slechtvalk can get into a berserk mode and devastate, they also have flair for other moods. The album rolls on pretty well. The biggest shortcoming for the band is their facelessness. There is so much of metal music of this ilk available, that bands must add something unique into their music. There are glimmers of hope on this album, though, and hopefully the band can strengthen their own identity in the future.

(Originally written for