Review Summary: Vortex turns out to be a vertex for The Ransack, who deliver a melodic death metal release worth worshipping amongst Norse and Greek followers alike.
Woah. Now here’s an album worth playing. Vortex deserves nothing less than a good spin
This outing is my first exposure to MDM undergrounders, The Ransack, who sneakily released a couple of albums that remain unknown to virtually anybody that doesn’t listen to metal, have a blue-collar job in construction or landscaping, and watches their countrymen shake up the football world. Yes, it’s Portugal; and when Rui Costa, Ronaldo and Figo aren’t wreaking havoc on the rectangular field, the Nandos-commandoes are pretty short of cultural heroes to rival international efforts, especially on the music scene. Besides Moonspell, the metal scene is rather dreary, and the Portuguese seem to resent Spain for it’s stronger metal progresses. But now they have another offering to rival the feisty Spaniards in the seemingly bottomless top hat labelled: Melodic Death Metal.
Azrael, the debut from this young four-piece, hit off a string of gigs around Portugal leading to national respect and international interest. These bad-ass boys have toured with big names such as Primordial and Dismember, gaining experience in front of the big crowds. When it came to crafting the second full-length, Vortex, the band needed something that would drive their fame to international shores. It was an album that had to prove they were a capable and skilled band. Did they achieve it? Yes. Vortex is the breakthrough they needed. Ten tracks beautifully crafted with catchy riffs and tremendous songwriting, Vortex is after all a fun
album as well as an easy listen. The band-leader, Shore, provides the memorable hooks and offers a vocal performance that is both enjoyable and animalistic. Deserving of the attention of all metal fans, Vortex is the fast-paced kick-in-the-face that made Nandos staff cream their pants; hence the special spicy sauce.
When 0.00 becomes 0.01 on the CD-player, there are two possibilities: 1. A big bang startles the listener, and then a melodious riff enters, screaming ‘How good are we?’, or 2. An epic cheesy metal intro wafts through the speakers and you listen attentively until silence turns into violence as option 1 proceeds. Vortex is different. An inconceivable voice-over rattles out orders of some sort, as an industrial-like post-whatever atmosphere envelops the listener, and you feel at peace. When the ‘bang’ comes in, you are annoyed that your peace and quiet has been interrupted and you face the try-hard wankery of another underground melodeath band wishing they were Amon Amarth. Wrong. The Ransack have skill. The riff begins strongly and is then turned upside down as a high-pitched solo screeches in, tailed by a beastly death howl. That howl is their unofficial trademark. Holding that howl for eight seconds is not unnatural for Shore, and is featured at least five times across the 40-minute battering that grace our ears. Shore isn’t one of those ethnics that suffer from the old Babel Fish treatment, the lyrics here are well thought-out although ultimately incomprehensible. Nonetheless, it is evil, beastly and downright impressive.
The Ransack begin tracks with a joyful skip-n-jump as riffs gallop alongside brilliant guitar-work and the godly thrash-about of Zeus’ (yes, the drummer’s name is Zeus) right arm on the ethereal drum kit. The man may be King of the Gods, but all that hedonism with divine/mortal/nymph/other girlies hasn’t affected his drumming one bit. Zeus mixes it up a little, entering Technical Death and even Thrash realms as he unleashes thunderbolts of saucepan-abuse on the cowardly mortals. Loki gives him a hand from the pages of his unearthly edda, to elicit a propensity to rape the neck muscles via what is commonly known as a ‘headbanging’ action. The Norse shape shifter rhythms his guitar with true skill and passion but is muffled by the foreboding skill of the lead guitarist, Shore. This man is the next big thing in Portuguese metal. Ex-vocalist of Demon Dagger and ex-guitarist of Noctum and Beyond Life, he has lent his golden hand at many small Portuguese bands before finally harvesting the members to bring forth The Ransack. Shore slams and rips when it’s time to slam and rip, managing to tear up the studio while spewing forth his throat lining in an impressive epitome of brutality, or virility. The excellent death grunts are evident on any track, which serve to place Shore amongst leaders of his ilk.
The easy access point is here as the disc runs into catchy and melodious riffs with opener, Chaos
, drilling past the ‘sonic assault’ bullsh*t that has been hackneyed to death by other amateurs, setting the bar high for the remainder of the album. The band is giving off an As I Lay Dying vibe with a few breakdowns chucked in for good measure. Although, on a whole, the sound is more akin to an In Flames release, but adding a bit of technicality to sharpen the already pungent sound. Tracks such as The Plague
, Flesh Wound
, and Blizzard
really showcase the band’s full potential. Most of the tunes are similar but little tid-bits of variation break up the patterns to the otherwise, full-on melodeath assault. Examples include the intro to the stunning, Slaves of Creation
, and the mellow opening of Play Me When I’m Dead
, which also features some lovely, and quite welcome, female vox (everybody loves those beautiful voices from gifted girlies). The final track, Blizzard
, is one of the strongest and ends with a guitar solo that sounds like something off a Wolfmother album.
I want the message to go out to all miserable In Flames fans, drowning in their copies of ‘A Sense of Purpose’ wishing they’re idols still had it in them. With the power of a Greek god on drums, a Norse god on Guitar, and their evil Cerberus child barking out the vocals, the Ransack have created something that is good enough to rival leaders of the genre. One day it might even enter Valhalla. This, however, would offend the Greek gods - something must be said when Norse and Greek mythology combine…
‘…Those heathen bastards…!’
The Ransack’s “Vortex” is out February 16, 2009 via Recital Records