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Subgenre dizziness - 75%

gasmask_colostomy, June 14th, 2018

Excluding Daniel Ekeroth, who is the author of Swedish Death Metal, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to me if you looked blankly at the line-up of Usurpress and wondered how they could be a special band. However, the underground experience of the quartet is secondary to their bizarre ideas of genre, or – more likely – their total disregard for it. Sure, there is a big slice of the Stockholm sound informing the guitar tone and uptempo riffing of several songs, but the way that death metal is spliced with hardcore, sludge, doom, and prog without being backward-looking or overblown is quite a feat of engineering.

As such, the actual sound of The Regal Tribe is not particularly experimental, but the structuring of the compositions certainly is, taking a mildly less extreme form of Dismember or Unleashed out for a walk from Opeth’s modern work (‘On a Bed of Straw’) to Discharge (‘The One They Call the Usurpress’) on the far horizon. Rarely do individual songs flick drastically from subgenre to subgenre, though the way that the songs are all connected means that the album demands to be listened to as a whole, making moments like the sudden drop into ambience between ‘The Mortal Tribes’ and ‘The Halls of Extinction’ very jarring. I do have one more analogy to give you an idea of how mixed up this album will make you: Mastodon meets At the Gates after listening to My Dying Bride on repeat. The textured heaviness of the former conjoins with the determined vocals and uncanny themes of Sweden’s most famous, while the latter influence comes across in some slow doom riffing in ‘Throwing the Gift Away’, as well as a spot of moody narration in the same song and clean sections elsewhere.

As I mentioned earlier, all of this comes without over-indulgence, Usurpress just about keeping things on the straight and narrow in regards to style and expansion, though it’s the 40 minute length that impresses me most. Developing from a tendency of producing short songs, the band allow no fat to remain in the taut structures, which might have been preferable if only to smooth the divides between different sections of the album. All the instrumentalists play an important role in keeping the music in check, though plaudits should firstly seek Påhl Sundström for a richly varied and memorable set of riffs, the best of which can be found on opener ‘Beneath the Starless Skies’ and ‘The Sin that Is Mine’, which strides out impressively on the back of Stefan Pettersson’s powerful yell.

I can’t quite bring myself to say that The Regal Tribe is an outstanding album in terms of quality, though it makes its presence felt with the strength of the ideas and its unique juxtaposition of styles. Some of the same concepts would be taken forward to the recent Interregnum full-length, an album that varies greatly in tone and playing style from song to song yet still manages to deliver several incredible cuts. This earlier effort is a little rougher round the edges, but there’s a wealth of interesting things to check out.

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