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Solid debut of Danish death - 71%

gasmask_colostomy, September 13th, 2017

What’s the purpose in a band changing their name? If the new group is formed with the same members, surely all the impetus gained and reputation built would be lost, meaning that a renaming implies starting again from the beginning. Perhaps a new moniker is a chance to escape from the associations of a previous unwanted exploit or to adjust image early in a career. An example: hands up who remembers Septic Broiler? Would you listen to them for the name alone? How about Dark Tranquillity? That’s interesting, because it’s the same band, just a catchier appellation. Now, as for Wrath of Belial, the shadow lurking in their past in the surprisingly long-lived Pariah Syndicate (which survived for eight years until 2015), though the reason might well have been for lack of momentum in the old group, who dabbled in Denmark’s deathly thrash waters only as far as their debut EP. The same group have now added a member, rid themselves of old associations, and offer Bloodstained Rebellion for your discerning ears.

Those discerning ears will quickly recognize other Scandinavian sounds in the 11 track effort, not least fellow Danes Hatesphere, whose trademark gruff roars and percussive battery finds two twin brothers in Kasper Hornstrup and Jacob Jørgenson respectively. However, it can’t be said that the sonic equation is so simple, traits of Amon Amarth becoming apparent during the mid-paced segments of 'Set Sails for the End of the World', while the aforementioned Dark Tranquillity would be a closer bedfellow if Bloodstained Rebellion had a more emphasized melodic edge. For those unsure of how a cross of those bands would sound, the tl;dr version (cunningly hidden in the middle of the review) reads: powerful thrash-cum-melodeath with a distinct modern element and gruff vocals. The modernity seeps into the sound as a result of the rhythms and the crisp production, the former sometimes intimating that the band’s thinking strayed close to the metalcore boundary, the latter declaring that Wrath of Belial probably think “the old school” refers to their days at college, even if some of the deathly parts on 'Hellion' recognize the need for a bit of dirt on the soundboard.
 
As a result of the familiarity, passion and creativity are fundamental requirements for this album, both of which are supplied in moderate doses. Pace is not as high as it sometimes is in Wrath of Belial’s chosen genres, while the guitars are thicker than they are sharp and sound downtuned, making the assault more about power than pure fury and abandon. There is no faulting the effort of the band, since the five-piece rarely let up for 45 minutes, though the overall effect is lessened as not all of the material hits the spot, the riffs often striking glancing blows but nothing with greater impact. For the listener, it’s one part underwhelming and one part "heard this before", just as it has been with many of the impure thrash bands such as Dew-Scented, Darkane, and Hatesphere in recent years. Nothing especially negative can be said about the riffing in 'With Hell Assured' or 'Next Chapter of Enslavement', yet it is just as difficult to single out memorable moments after listening, barring some of the leads, which bear a striking resemblance to the tone used by Amorphis earlier in their careers.
 
If there’s anything that really does work in the Danes’ favour, it must be the energy of the playing and unpredictability that their mixture of genres allows. Take a song like 'Six Feet Under Pandora': curious title aside, the lightning switches between groovy bluster and murderous true death metal are unexpected and subtly concealed, while the melodic touch that ends it gives the song a sense of closure that is evidence to its satisfying wholeness. This ability to keep the listener guessing augments the slightly generic elements and, coupled with the intelligent decision to place longer songs earlier in the album, prevents the formula becoming too tiring by the time the closer rumbles around with its intriguing mock-Crowbar introduction. These kind of surprising features also create memorable moments in 'Aftermath of a Tyrant', thanks to some nifty breaks, as well as the brutishness and lead-happy ending of 'Hellion', plus the oddly overlong 'Mirror Fiend'.
 
For a debut album, the shape of Bloodstained Rebellion is not exactly surprising, though coming from a band who effectively have a 10 year history, a little more creativity might be hoped for. None of the songs are quite going to cause a large enough impact to start any rebellions, but it’s quite possible that the shirt your wearing will end up bloodstained if you head to a Wrath of Belial show. This is worth a shot.

Originally written for The Metal Observer. Available at http://www.metal-observer.com/3.o/review/wrath-belial-bloodstained-rebellion/