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Basically done by the numbers - 65%

TrooperOfSteel, April 30th, 2012

Sweden’s Steel Attack have returned in 2008 to release their 6th full-length CD, entitled ‘Carpe Diend’. It is their last release since their 2006 CD, called ‘Diabolic Symphony’. Steel Attack have been one of those power metal bands who have dipped in form in recent years, after starting out quite promising. Changing their musical styles with the trends at the time, Steel Attack have gone from power metal a la “dragons, swords, knights and fighting” to the other end of the spectrum and becoming more typically heavy metal in the process.

With numerous line-up changes throughout their existence, came changes of direction, ideas and songwriting. The original Steel Attack no longer exists, but have they improved from that or have they declined? That is the question. I believe Steel Attack reached their peak with their 3rd release, entitled ‘Predator of the Empire’, released in 2003 and is arguably their best CD to date. Steel Attack had the right formula with that CD, so it is unfortunate that they do not sound like that anymore. In a way you could compare what Steel Attack are doing now with what happened with Metalium. Both had the same paths of starting out great, reaching a peak early; and both are declining somewhat now musically and their styles now are quite similar. I’d say Metalium are a bit faster than Steel Attack at the moment though.

Instead of fast-paced tracks with great riffs, excellent song-writing and melodic vocals, ‘Carpe diend’ is none of these things. The majority of the tracks are all slow to mid-paced and vocalist Ronny Hemlin basically sings at the top of his voice with hardly any emotion or melody. There still may be some good guitar riffs in most of the tracks, but they also follow the same structure and overall just lack depth. That’s not to say that the songs suck, but they could have been a hell of a lot better.

For what Steel Attack is now (from ‘Enslaved’ onwards), they would have lost fans but also gained new ones with their current sound. I for one enjoyed ‘Enslaved’, but it wasn’t enough for me to have any interest in their 2nd to last release, ‘Diabolic Symphony’. But with word of a new CD to be released, I again found some interest and here I am reviewing ‘Carpe Diend’.

Onto the songs on the CD and apart from what I mentioned earlier about them being basically mid-paced the whole way through, there are one or 2 which break off from the typical song structure that Steel Attack have on this release. “For Whom I Bleed” would be the best track on the CD, mainly because it doesn’t sound the same as all the others. This track does have great riffs and even a solo, which has also disappeared from the most recent Steel Attack songs. Hemlin doesn’t shout at the top of his voice on this song and overall it is arranged very nicely. “Entrance to Heaven Denied” is also a good song, as again it is different than the others. This one is quite slower, but not quite considered a ballad. It’s still heavy, but it has depth and emotion, something that is lacking on this release.

Overall, I am disappointed with this release. I feel that Steel Attack have lost what it was that made them unique with their first 3 releases and are unable to get it back. Whether they have changed their style to gain more exposure or fans, I feel that the majority of fans have struggled to remain interested in them now. They do seem a shadow of their former selves and they really need something to change to put them back on track. ‘Carpe Diend’ has basically been done by the numbers. For serious Steel Attack fans only I’m afraid.

Originally written for www.metalcdratings.com

Impressive yet directionless. - 60%

hells_unicorn, November 8th, 2010

Despite the continual attempts at evolving, there is a perpetual sense of orthodoxy that pervades most of metal, particularly in the case of the power/speed metal variant that carries a strong affinity with the earliest versions of the overall genre. As such, there is a general hesitation to accept anything that attempts to move away from the established dogmas, and perhaps rightly so given all the horrid mutations that often result from experimentation run amok. This is particularly the case when a heavy presence of groove and progressive influences that point heavily towards the likes of Nevermore and Fear Factory are brought into the mix. Some may point to the lack of speed, the lack of catchiness, or the clashing influences, but there always seems to be a few definite deal breakers that seal the fate of such albums as “The Scythe” and “Become Death”.

Steel Attack, a band of fairly reputable origin within the late 90s power metal revival, has brought themselves into the midst of this recent controversial aside of progressive/groove power reinterpretations with “Carpe DiEnd”. Putting aside the corny album title, this is actually a fairly serious work from a songwriting standpoint, throwing just about every chug riff imaginable into the mix and really putting a lot of emphasis on vocal dramatics and keyboard work. The vocal delivery is a bit overdone, but Ronny Hemlin does a solid job and comes off pretty much like an agonized Dan Heiman meets a pissed off Tim Owens. The solo work takes the initiative in terms of technical showmanship, and though it doesn’t quite upstage Jeff Loomis’ outlandishly fast and furious lead assaults, a fairly admirable attempt is made.

Though the comparisons to many 90s groove and Industrial purveyors become unavoidable, the power metal roots of this outfit to manage to bring this rather odd experiment into a middle ground between aggression and catchiness. This blend is largely avoided by the likes of Nevermore, and comes off as less awkward than the pop/Goth drivel that is Evergrey’s “Torn” or the angry metalcore teens with some Folk interludes approach Human Fortress’ “Eternal Empire”. It’s a largely down tempo affair with a fair amount of down tuned riffing that is heavily minimalist and simplistic, but it is surrounded with so much activity that it largely avoids becoming an exercise in monotony.

Having said all of this, the critical flaw that cancels out a lot of these positive elements is that the sum of all these parts is so heavy on ideas that it suffers from the “where is the song in all this?” issue that haunted much of Nevermore’s late 90s material. It isn’t as large of an issue as the catchy elements do anchor down some of these songs, particularly the powerful chorus sections on “The Evil Is Me” and “Crawl”, but it drags this down from being an album to be reckoned with to something that might tickle the itching ears of a tech. fanatic who wants a sing along section here or there, with more resemblance to Rob Halford than Phil Anselmo. But it fails to achieve that magical blend of depressing atmosphere and ground pounding chug effect meshed with brilliant songwriting that made Machinery’s “The Passing” such a powerful album.

Ultimately, the issue with “Carpe DiEnd” is that it showcases a band that is out of its element. It has its moments, but it is mired in inconsistency and meanders more than it needs to. Hemlin’s vocal abilities would be much more at home filling in the vacant slot currently present in Lost Horizon, or perhaps his talents will see something superior come about with his recent disposition as Tad Morose’s new lead vocalist. Likewise, this band would do well to get back to basics, which is what they are likely to do now that they are back to their original lineup. Fans of Outworld might go for this as a discount purchase carrying somewhat of a resemblance to said band, but this is an album that will have a hard time finding much of an audience, in spite of the talent of all in congress.

Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on November 8, 2010.

What a fucking joke. - 30%

Empyreal, August 27th, 2009

You know there's something wrong when you can spot a flaw before you even turn on the first song. Look at that horrible pun in the title! You thought Sinctuary was bad? Get a load of this one; it's positively gut-busting hilariously awful! You can't just title your album something like that and expect people to take it the least bit seriously, but lo and behold, that's the first real problem with this album, because they do expect us to buy it, hook, line and sinker.

Why? Because both the music and lyrics on here are just so extremely over-dramatic and super-serious that it's like night and day from that stupid title! I mean, this is just full of slow sections that accentuate vocal midget Ronny Hemlin's voice, letting him be all superfluous and show off how much he can make his voice vibrate and whatnot. The lyrics are super serious crisis-of-faith babbling that I'd expect from a traveling group of Jehovah's Witnesses or Armageddon theorists rather than a Power Metal band; completely non-sequitur to anything that genre or any Metal genre stands for. Everything about this is just too dark, with lots of choirs and cinematic synths and a whole slew of moribund grooves and dramatic melodies that just makes you feel like the band are the musical equivalent of the worst teacher you ever had, barring you from having any fun at all. This...just doesn't work, guys. It just makes you look silly.

Let me try to elaborate on this a little better: It's like if a clown named Bubbles tried to pass himself off as a Gothic poet. I just don't buy the entire idea of this album's existence. You title an album something stupid, you better not expect anybody to really take you seriously, no matter how artsy you think you are. Once you write down a title like Carpe DiEnd, you have officially barred yourself from creating anything remotely artistic. And I wouldn't even be ragging on them so much about it if the band hadn't tried so goddamn hard to be like that, but it's like they were stumbling over their own instruments trying to make something as depressive and "deep" as possible. This album is as fraudulent as they come, without even one ounce of sincerity or one note that isn't ludicrously over-the-top try-hard bullcrap.

Ronny Hemlin's vocal's don't help either. God, who ever thought it was a good idea to let this guy behind the mic again? I bet they cry themselves to sleep every night now. The last album I heard from this band was Enslaved, and from what I remember, he sounded passable on there, but here he's just laughable. He over-emphasizes everything, sounding out each syllable like he's trying to make sure we can hear him, and the way his voice warbles and tries to reach highs he can't hit really, really make this sound stupider and stupider as it goes on. It's like if Daniel Heiman had a mouthful of jelly; it's just silly as hell. Good god, he sounds like a fucking parrot half the time on here! I mean, maybe with a good vocalist this album might be a little bit better, but this just seals the deal for good.

Frankly, I listen to music to enjoy it, I don't listen to it to hear a bunch of idiots trying to show off angsty poetry and bad groove riffs, and I don't see why anyone would. And just in case you forgot, to top it all off, this album was made by a bunch of guys who think Carpe DiEnd is a clever pun. Why hasn't the world laughed this band off the map again? Their whole existence sounds like the punchline of a bad joke, anyway. "So the Power Metal band that lost most of their members got a bald guy to sing for them and write Christian lyrics, and wallowed forever in overwrought depression and overblown theatrics." This album sucks, no two ways about it. If you have a chance to pass up this sad, sad piece of musical excrement, do so, and don't ever look back.

Thanks, But I'll Take Human Excrement - 5%

GuntherTheUndying, July 6th, 2008

I’m cutting straight to the case: this CD is forsakenly horrible. Aside from having the most retarded title I could possibly imagine, “Carpe DiEnd” does much more than make your humor systems unleash laughter uncontrollably: it actually attempts to crush everything power metal has ever represented. Now you probably wonder how in the world that could happen when several factions dump puffy keyboards all over your ears like a fairy, but Steel Attack makes a statement here that drives away from such expected blandness. The key on this record is groove metal stirred upon dying influences groups like Helloween and Gamma Ray forged years ago, and what emerges should never be experienced by anyone, even if you wanted a certain individual to suffer; it’s really that bad.

Flattering can be represented by individuals applying popularity to receive fame; that being the money and “flattery” of retarded groove monkeys. Dante, however, foresaw a smelly fate for those that engaged in such activity, and his visions ironically match where this record resides: shit. Clean the slate of any real, memorable riffs, because Steel Attack is just caught on tedious groove chops stuck in some mid-paced atrocity that never resurfaces. With no speed intact, “Carpe DiEnd” slowly curses itself beyond all types of quality, simply due to these three-note riffs caught going nowhere; an invisible bombardment makes an invisible record. But still, finding sanctuary in epic soloing will unfortunately crumble beneath their tainted grasp, once again shown by a disgraceful atmosphere in which nothing entertaining can rise. Flattering? Go get buried in feces.

However, “Carpe DiEnd” fails miserably on the remaining instrumental terms like a slacker taking his final exam after skipping class. Since we’re already chatting about laziness, let’s look at Peter Morén’s newbie-influenced percussion: use your foot on the bass pedal, hit the hi-hat, bash your snare, and repeat until your full-length is finished. I remember hearing one riff that didn’t totally put me to sleep, but those one-staged beats killed that rare opportunity; there’s no force despite a wrist’s flick. Alas, mixing in two toxins makes our subject one fatality with no chance of survival. Next time, I’ll just hear myself inhaling.

But once the ground opens, we all go straight into Hades’ bowels, and there lies Ronny Hemlin’s vocals as our ears desperately wish we were back in human excrement. Now the thought of being completely submerged in poop brings joy to my mind after witnessing this putrid singer bellow out useless words that are completely atrocious in so many areas; it’s laughable, if not a bit sad. For one, Uncle Ronny continually screws up when cracking out high-pitched notes, causing his vocals to go off-key on countless episodes; quite taboo for a studio recording, but if you suck, I guess you suck hard! With that out of the way, Hemlin always has a monotone base, making him seem like a fourth-rate Rob Halford, and because of his natural woes, it’s nearly unlistenable. So in summary, he’s like Tim “Ripper” Owens if Tim “Ripper” Owens was force-fed broken glass as a child, had has tongue gnawed by a rat, removed his testicles before hitting puberty, and generally sucked at singing. Can I go back to the rotting dung now?

When I heard the opening songs for the first time, I honestly laughed. Upon making it mid-way through, I was insulted. And after I struggled with this record’s final tracks, my mind was enraged by what was just experienced. There’s absolutely no denying “Carpe DiEnd” is unquestionably the worst assault on power metal your fellow friend could have ever imaged, and needless to say, these guys have screwed themselves up, down, sideways, and every direction possible. Of course, Steel Attack is covertly leading power metal astray with its pathetic combination of heaviness, mindless groove chops, breakdowns that edge on metalcore, and multiple chorus-orientated structures screaming poser-laden ideologies without relenting; indeed, your best choice is to avoid entirely. And remember kids: everyone’s doing the toxic waltz!

This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com