Review Summary: A smashing, highly recommended attempt at fusing old school death metal with more of a melodic Gothenburg sound, this is chock full of demonic riffing and a crisp production job that keeps it as heavy as possible8 of 8 thought this review was well written
Many fans of death metal music will no doubt be unaware of December Flower. They are a German melodic death metal band formed in 2007 that contain much more of an old-school death metal feel to their music, akin to a band such as Morbid Angel but with more of a melodic style than the full-speed-ahead nature of that band. The first material that December Flower released was the Moloch EP in 2008, which hinted at what was to come. They have remained underground since the release of their debut album in 2011, entitled When All Life Ends, despite the praise that particular album received upon release from the few members of the death metal community who actually heard it.
When All Life Ends is a heavy hitting dose of death metal that is packed with dark and incredibly well written guitar work, courtesy of formed Through The Ashes guitarist Torsten Horstmann. Songs like Lost In Twilight really display a great knowledge of how to create brutal riffs that are still highly melodic in a similar vein to the early Gothenburg bands. The guitar work here is a varied mass of heavy-as-balls riffs that are by far the best thing about December Flower's debut. Horstmann jumps with ease between higher pitched clean passages and lightning fast tremolo picked guitar lines, with the occasional power chord riff scattered in between for the more mid-paced sections. The Fountain closes the album off on a particularly high note, containing a mass of tremolo picked sections as well as the characteristic riffs of the melodic death metal genre that involve playing a lot of single notes in succession jumping between contrasting highs and lows to create a sinister and beautiful soundscape.
Given the fantastic level of talent that Torsten Horstmann shows, it is a considerable shame that the rest of the band are so pedestrian at what they do. The drums are decently written and have some variation to them in speed but the blast beats feel too robotic and forced; whereas the slower beats are not creative enough. Also, this is an album where there are thrash beats in abundance and this would be fine except that they often go on for far too long. As Darkness Reigns and in particular The Fountain are the most guilty of this and it truly is a shame to see a band with such creativity on the guitar frontier let themselves down in this manner. The vocals frequently jump from the traditional raspy shrieks of the melodic death metal sub-genre to some husky, deep lows which are underwhelming to say the least. The vocals here sound somewhat reminiscent of what Corpsegrinder from Cannibal Corpse would sound like if he was screaming from his throat for the next thirty years. The production job also ensures that the bass is inaudible as it is far too focused on ensuring the drums and guitars completely overbear the listener with their presence, which is a little sad to see.
This is almost undeniably an album that is very ambitious in its attempt to fuse the Gothenburg sound with that of a band such as Morbid Angel or Death's early material, and it actually makes a nice stab at it. One good thing that next to nobody could realistically argue against about this release is that it has a very focused nature to it. Every instrument melds well together to create a nice wall of sound to headbang to, regardless of the fact that some of the instrumental work is a little sub-par. One complaint that detracts from the sound of the album on the whole is the obligatory instrumental opener that sounds out of place here despite the fact it sets a dark mood for the album to come. Following this little blip however the album is just one fine solid slab of old-school influenced melodic death metal for the listener to enjoy. There is nothing that will absolutely blow your mind here, but every song has the feeling of being refined and just short enough that it never grows tiring really and is an album you can just throw on at any time and listen to in its entirety. Your Darkest Path in particular is a song that stands out, from the manic shriek that opened it with the blast beats that follow, right through to its incredibly violent and angry closure.
December Flower's debut was an excellent stab at fusing the old-school Morbid Angel sound with more of a melodic nature akin to bands like Dark Tranquility, and it certainly succeeds when it is firing on all cylinders. It never really feels too long nor drags on despite the lack of creativity on the drum frontier, and the wall of sound that the instruments create just makes for one sweet headbanging session. I recommend When All Life Ends to people who are new to the death metal scene who want something aside from the obvious recommendations as this release is somewhat fresh in its sound and may well be a nice introduction to death metal in general.