Review Summary: Old-school melodic death metal done the right way.Sonrise
, the only release from Norwegian melodic death metal band Schaliach, has the look and feel of a classic. It came at a time when melodic death metal was about to take on a new life of its own, with Swedish bands like At the Gates
and In Flames
leading the charge. Schaliach appear oblivious to this momentum, and don’t owe much of anything to Heartwork
, either. Instead, the band relies on the intricate, but not flashy, guitar work of Ole Børud (technically the band relies on him a lot, since he contributes everything except lead vocals), and an early 90s production standard that really works. The tracks on Sonrise
aren’t blistering or intense. Instead, the album has a majestic aura, at times melancholic, but at many others hopeful.
The album’s first two tracks are the archetype of Schaliach’s sound. They are defined by slow to mid-tempo riffing, melodic guitar bridges and solos, and appropriate death grunts (courtesy of Schaliach’s second member Peter Dalbakk). Both of these tracks take time to work in multiple elements, rather than the simpler structure that would come to be associated with melodic death metal. ‘The Last Creed’ marches through verses at a pace that could be described as doomy, but progresses into two guitar solos bookending the tracks most powerful moments, where drums roar out of the background and charge upward as Dalbakk amps up his vocal intensity. ‘You Maintain’ ups the tempo noticeably, and uses a more traditional chorus as its cornerstone, but doesn’t lose the soloing or forward thinking structure.
The album’s centerpiece, ‘A Father’s Mourning’ lightens the template with clean vocals and acoustic guitars, but at a snail’s pace. While the track explodes briefly before settling in for the night, more contrast could have made it a truly enthralling tune, rather than just a very good one. Contrast, however, is a word that could describe the three instrumental tunes on Sonrise
. Ranging from delicate keys and acoustic picking to the glorious riff-fest of ‘Whisper from Heaven’, these tracks show the priority Ole placed on the melodies of Sonrise
Wrapping things up is the title track, ‘Sonrise’. Probably the most intense track on the album, the song has some aggressive verses, but also the most memorable tune. The duo don’t lose any of their flair ending the song on a guitar solo which spins itself out of control and crashes into a black hole of distortion. Both of these musicians continued on in the Scandinavian metal scene, more notably Ole, who played guitar on Extol
’s first three albums (Dalbakk became the vocalist of Vardøger). Watching Dalbakk’s band cover ‘You Maintain’ almost fifteen years later evokes the deep sense of nostalgia this record carries, and you don’t even need to have ‘been there’ to appreciate it.