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Sundead - Ashes - 92%

Edmund Sackbauer, February 11th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Independent

Sundead is a completely new band hailing from Germany and “Ashes” is their full length debut. Based on track titles like “Dying Sun”, “Solar Winter” or “Reduced to Ashes” it becomes obvious even before the first spin that this record cannot be tagged as any kind of Happy Metal. Instead these German fans of Dystopian visions offer a hefty dose of Melodic DM enhanced by a few elements taken from the related BM genre.

The riffs are slightly technical with even a few progressive elements thrown in for good measure but at the core “Ashes” owes a lot to the traditional Gothenburg stuff fans of Metal came to love over the past decades. The blackened touch is noticeable throughout the record with some of the typical tremolo chops added and all the pieces melded with a lush fluidity and dark haunting melodies. The crunchy main chords are not only accompanied by some classy melodic lead guitar work but also by some perfectly embedded keyboard sounds provided by the only female member of the band with the fitting (artist?) name Ashima. The soundscapes have an often melancholic touch and the dark beauty of the harmonies is responsible for an atmosphere that will suck the listener into the album.

What surprised me the most while listening to “Ashes” is the professional level of the songwriting. Each of the songs has a clear structure and Sundead managed to make the single tracks memorable without sounding too fluffy or simplistic. There is a good portion of rhythm and tempo changes but overall the songs follow a clear and stringent structure. The soloing parts are well implemented and never overstay their welcome. Relentless riff attacks are interchanging with ambient pieces giving the whole thing kind of a hypnotic character.

Another positive aspect of Sundead is their singer/shouter Micha. Vocals often can be a bit of a make-or-break factor but Micha has a strong and powerful tone. Switching between traditional growling and a more blackish and snarling style his aggressive delivery is a nice counterpart to the moody and sometimes even dreamy sections.

“Ashes” is rounded off by a great production job. The guitars sound crunchy and the drums have enough punch and a natural and organic feel. While there is always something going on in the background and atmosphere is king there is a certain level of rawness giving the album enough grittiness to be of interest for any fan of heavy yet harmonic music. The sound is epic and crystal clear which is really impressive for self-released album. Well done!