Review Summary: A gem from the less known band of the former At The Gates frontman...
Tomas Lindberg, the vocalist of the At The Gates, has been rather sporadic and varied in the fronting of certain bands. His talent has spanned from working with death metal band Nightrage to a d-beat band called Disfear. Many would say he is a melodic death metal/death metal vocalist, others would says his yelps lean towards more of the stylings of crust punk and hardcore. In truth both are part of his eclectic being and with this band he tried to combine both styles to create something far greater. This album is their latest and, by far, their best work to date.
It should be noted that from the beginning that if anyone is expecting the influence of At The Gates to be abundant then prepare to be a little disappointed. They are an influence here, traces can be heard of their sound in the guitar riffs of songs such as In the Wake of Progress, but they are only one influence among many. This album is a brewing pot of different styles and genres. D-beat, death metal, melodic death metal, crust punk, hardcore, gothic rock, even traces of industrial... all can be seen within this work. It is as diverse as its members, a veritable palette of Diabolique, Grotesque as well as the near entire discography of Tomas Lindberg. So with this amount of variation on display then it is to be expected the work should fall to pieces under its own weight, right?
Wrong. If I was reviewing the two past releases I would agree with that statement but with this release they have distilled their formula and siphoned into a potent concoction. The industrial elements that smothered the songs on the two past releases have been cut back, instead applied with far greater precision. The variance in guitar riffs between hardcore, melodic death metal and gothic rock have been cut back or melded together in the case of the melodic death metal and the hardcore. Even Tomas Lindberg is more restrained in his vocal repertoire. Spoken word passages are sporadic and he restricts his voice to his signature yelp.
Yet even within this thinning of the flesh, the band members still play with great flair, variety and skill. The guitars of Johan Osterberg and Kristian Wahlin play from At The Gates-inspired melo-death to jagged hardcore with both speed and precision. There are points when an unneeded, high-pitch whine of a guitar grates upon the ears or the low twang of a guitar note is also applied unnecesarily. However on the occasions when the two guitarrists combine the At The Gates-style melodic death metal and the hardcore elements they create riffs that are not so much inspired but evolutions upon the established riffs. These riffs are faster and harder than the originals but there appearances are rare. Despite this, these moments of creativity are testament to the talent on display, of which a similar statement can be said about the drummer.
Ulf Scott provides a performance that Adrian Erlandsson would be proud of. He, like the guitarrists, is able to show a great level of skill in both playing and repertoire, if not even greater. Ulf is able to pound a d-beat rhythm at a speed reminiscent of Disfear yet change to a style more reminiscent of Adrian Erlandsson, all of which at varying tempos and speeds. However while this is impressive the variance can lessen the impact of some of the drumming styles. The use of a d-beat style, for example, while aggressive lacks the sheer hammer power of Disfear and other such d-beat dedicated bands. The drumming also has points where it does not symmetrically fit with the style of the guitars, it never misses a beat but it does not enhance the power of the guitars as well because of this difference. Perhaps though the greatest fault lies with the bass. It is a well-worn complaint of mine and it stands here; it is mostly buried under the other instruments. The only time it comes to the fore is in unnecessary, low twangs. However these are few and far between. All it does though within the album is extentuate the aggression of the instruments, nothing else. It is a disappointment
Thankfully it is not a disappointment that ruins the album. The other instruments creativity and exuberance surpass's this, a creativity that is topped off by the frontman himself. Even though his vocal range is more limited, that is far from a problem. Here Tomas Lindberg's vocals are consistent in their rabid lunacy. They work very effectively with the instruments in channelling the constantly amounting frenzy and bile that the band whip up through the lyrics. The lyrics, through the vocals and instruments, are projected with a great level of clarity and wrath yet they are not unintelligent. They cite specific historical events and are both introspective and extrospective. They are angry and bitter throughout but never overly demanding, only arguing. Thus through combined aggression they are rendered one of the album's most potent and honest tools.
Overral this album is a diamond with slight flaws. More precise application is needed of certain types of instrumentation and the bass is needed to play a greater part for further improvement. However the creativity, skill and future promise on show more than makes up for these errors on this album. Perhaps with the future this band may produce another Slaughter of the Soul but only time will tell. This album should not be overlooked though. It is a display of brutality, power and creativity. In other words, it's brilliant.