Review Summary: A very promising album by a band that will get progressively better the more they ignore a lot of todays metal scene.
Karybdis are a London based band that according to themselves plays a mix of death and groove metal, which sounds like a pretty good deal thanks to the inherent suggestion that it may bypass the breakdowns, identical riffs and weak clean choruses that plague a lot of the more modern generation of bands. And groove metal, despite being very successfully mastered by some of the biggest bands we've seen in the metal genre in the form of Lamb Of God and Pantera has been a surprisingly sparse scene in relation to the number of bands that have really used it to their advantage so Karybdis seemed to hold quite a lot of hope for me.
It is a shame then that the album is by no means one of the more original collections of music that I have heard recently. The album starts well with the song Minotaur opened by the sound of waves and violins before kicking in with a pretty effective blast of rapid double bass drumming, still complimented by the violins. By far the best thing about the song (and album) however are the guitar lead parts which have an interestingly sinister sound to them and make what would have been a pretty dull chorus a great deal better. Moments of weakness are never far behind however as the verse riff is pretty dull and two and a half minutes into the song we are treated with everybody's favourite way to pad out a song a bit, the breakdown. If there was ever a better way to make people lose interest in your song than a breakdown then I have yet to find it and it's a further shame then than none of the breakdowns are especially good, I remember that there were quite a few of them but none of them were memorable and consequently they just end up blunting the album and slowing it down.
And that's also annoying because the guitar work is by far the best thing about the album with the guitarists, Harsha and Pierre proving themselves to be very capable of laying down interesting guitar parts such as the very sudden clean jazz solo on I Say which is a welcome relief and while they are definitely not the only band to do this its executed tastefully and with skill. The band also certainly are not lagging behind technically with the song Medusa wielding a tight riff that dances from fret to fret with ease. The bands claim that they play groove metal is debatable and the tags justification seems to be the slower sections of the songs, often containing one note pounding by the instruments with strings. Maelstrom ends with probably the best moment on the album, a catchy little clean guitar lick complimented by some inventive hi-hat drumming and an odd wah infused chord before hitting a satisfying crescendo, the clean riff now bathed in distortion, cymbals ringing out and vocalist Rick sending out errant roars. Its really good stuff and once its finished it makes you wonder how the band didn't listen to it and decide to make the entire album sound like that.
Vocally Rick holds up well and like I said does not feel the need to try his hand at clean singing but he is unlikely to leave you with anything particularly memorable and once you have taken in both his low growl and the rarer higher screams he will not do anything that will impress you. On Medusa he sounds pretty forceful next to the grinding guitar work and his voice bridges some of the subtler parts of the album into the heavier moments well such on the song Arson Aesthetics where his roar of 'I will watch your portrait burn' allows the transition to sound fluent and natural. He also allows the guitar to transition into one of those semitone-interval discordant riffs that have become commonplace within the metal scene. My comments about the vocals also can be applied to the drumming as Mitch handles his job well pulling off those precise bass drum parts convincingly and showing off suitably on the albums fills.
The last song, DeathToll is the longest song on the album clocking in at just over seven minutes on an album mostly populated safely under six minutes and in many ways sums up the whole album. It begins with a chuggy riff very much evocative of Malefices work and the song continues with some decent leads and riffs (the use of warm guitar chords over a heavier riff two and a half minutes in being a highlight). After about four and a half minutes the song fades into some really good dual acoustic work with a really interesting acoustic solo that had me thinking about bands such as Wretched, certainly a good thing. The song does not go downhill after that either still with the guitar work generally proving itself to be really good, although disappointingly the song, and thus the album is finished with a breakdown. Its parts like the acoustic solo however that highlight how dull other moments on the album can be and make this album more of a promising one than a downright great one. The production is solid, the lower strings of the guitar having a kind of industrial sound to them which is probably going to receive a mixed reaction form most people.
In conclusion the album is worth some of your time thanks to a number of interesting sections scattered around the more tedious moments the album presents. It's also worth mentioning that the album is worth your time if you are fine with guitar being the focus of all the albums good points as I can imagine that it will leave some people wanting more from the other three members of the band.