Review Summary: death metal power embraced by the dark black metal atmosphere (quote)
It’s no secret that Metal is an ultra popular form of music, not just in America but even in several other continents. North America, South America, Europe, Australia, and even Asia has caught on to the ever expanding, multi cultural, metal scene that continues to grow as we speak. It truly is a remarkable thing to hear bands spread far across the globe contributing something fresh to the seemingly stale genre of Metal. Taiwan has Chthonic, an Oriental Folk Metal band who has seen great success in America due to Ozzfest‘s positive response. Then, Israel has Distorted, a dual vocal, progressive metal band that seamlessly blends their culture into the harsher extreme of metal with success. And now we have a young group hailing from Riga, Latvia by the name of Preternatural. I had heard this band before, mentioned to me previously by Jrowa. At first I wasn’t that impressed, the structure of their music seemed like a typical run of the mill Swedish Death Metal band. Plenty of Gothenburg riffing, rapid drumming patterns, blazing solos, and the traditional harsh vocals akin to At The Gates and such. Recently though, I came across this band again and decided to listen to these guys again. Now, they still possess the traits of the Swedes but this time, I noticed there was more than meets the eye to this band. Preternatural’s subtle integration of industrial samples and symphonic keyboard runs added a highly intriguing new element to the music. I was so impressed with this band upon my reviewing , I decided to acquire this.
Needless to say, I was quite impressed with the tight musicianship coming from this young band. Preternatural formed in 1999, only to releases a few demos along the way until they released a full length by the name of Statical. At first I was a bit skeptical due to the album art. It basically just shows an attractive girl kneeling in a black dress around with what appears to be an image of broken mirrors along with her posing in a different stance. Pretty lame and not very metal but nonetheless, just a diversion for a great album. Preternatural’s sound can be described as Dark Melodic Death Metal, which was coined by the band themselves. Elements of melodic death metal, industrial, dark ambient, and symphonic black metal are balanced together to create an aggressive yet atmospheric sound fitting between the common elements without one overpowering the other. As a comparison, I’ll say Preternatural plays a mix between Dark Tranquillity and Callenish Circle. I find that tag hits the band straight on the nose. The Gothenburg metal sound, played out to the max for many years now by many mediocre bands, seems to be the shared love for this group, for better or worse. Their penchant for crushing, groovy riffs, half time breakdowns, and jaw dropping solos recall many of the greats. The unoriginality is a fault to many, including myself but reinforced with strong song writing skills and enough variety to keep the album rolling on a positive note. Remember, this this their debut album, so I expect to find many faults along the positives that I search for in my music.
“Reflections” is a highlight and would be a great song to point out. A mid tempo number, “Reflections open’s up with an industrial sample and progresses with a heavy riff and a bleak keyboard line that plays a prominent role in the song. Drumming is pretty impressive and features a couple of memorable solos that will stick in your head. Guitar wise, this album is pretty spot on and keeps things heavy with shifting tempos along with playing extremely catchy and melodic notes. Serg and Volod complement each other well without trying to out do the other in the process, something that could make or break an album. There are a fair share of solos that are played with great efficiency, enhancing the song in the process without boring the listener with mindless, uninteresting solos. The electronic work is structured extremely well into the music. At times recalling Children Of Bodom and Dimmu Borgir, Euge takes full advantage of his presence to add lush, haunting runs to the melodic death metal structure. Euge really knows how to add atmosphere and urgency to each song without completely swallowing the guitars and drums. This sounds really good when playing along with the rhythm or during an interlude when he takes first string. Drumming on this album excels thanks to Gin. I always say that the drummer plays his role smartly when he plays according to the speed of the song and this is no different. He can play quick blast beat and double bass patterns at one minute and then shift to a slower direction when needed. They’re loud and full of punch, just what I expect to find in each metal album I listen too. Vocal work is pretty solid and filled with plenty of variety to keep the album from sounding stale. Serg displays plenty of aggression and fury between his raspy tone, to his lower, death metal growls, and his occasional black metal influenced shrieks. Bass unfortunately is toned down quite down a bit on the album. I like to hear Bass play a prominent role in metal but it’s not the case here. The bass isn’t completely absent, Den from time to time lays down a predictable bass line but doesn’t add enough to the music.
The production is above average, drums pound away, guitars plow, electronics are heard cleanly, and vocals are crisp enough to enjoy . Nothing too clean or pristine, just the way I like it. Too bad, the bass was left out to dry. The album closes with a “Depeche Mode” cover song, one that has been covered one too many times by the metal community. “Enjoy The Silence“, covered by the likes of It Dies Today, Evergreen Terrace, Lacuna Coil. and now Preternatural. Is this stronger than the other three? Well, It Dies Today’s version was mediocre from start to finish, Evergreen Terrace’s version was stronger but nothing great, and Lacuna Coil’s version was stellar, the best of the four no doubt, thanks to the strong vocal performance from Christina Scabbia. Preternatural’s version was a disappointment to be honest, at least vocally. The vocals sounded forced and the chorus was pretty underwhelming. Musically though, it was pretty good. Guitars were great but the keyboards took front and center, saving the song from being a complete failure. All in all, despite a number of flaws, “Statical’ is an impressive album for a debut, and an album for metallers to appreciate. If you like Melodic Death Metal, Symphonic Black Metal, or if you’re like me, an all around metal fan, I suggest you check them out. I expect good things in the future and hope in time they shed some of their worship to carve their own niche in the world wide metal scene. 4/5.