Review Summary: Serenity in Murder take the wheel and let us, their passengers, savor the familiar-yet-scenic environments along the way.
Japan isn’t exactly known for its booming heavy metal scene. While X Japan and Dir En Gray have enjoyed their share of acclaim, the country’s biggest metal export has been an idol group that many would rather not acknowledge. Despite outward appearances, Japan isn’t without other bands of note, especially when taking Serenity in Murder into account. The female-fronted quintet is fairly new to the scene, having formed in 2009, and are just now releasing The Eclipse
, their third studio LP. Much of the album’s inherent charm comes not only from the fact that it’s a solid slab of symphonic/melodic death metal, but also because it does a damn fine job disguising the band’s lineage, despite what the cover art essentially gives away.
’s exact formula isn’t far from what an established melodic death metal band would craft if they collaborated with Two Steps from Hell; for example, “The Revelation” features choir vocals similar to those found throughout Archangel
. There’s even a touch or two of Dutch influence (think Epica) to find. Upbeat, occasionally rapid-fire drumbeats complement the many flavorful guitar riffs and solos, usually followed by (or following) respites that bring a breeze of natural-through-electronic ambience. Clips of waves crashing and caressing a nearby shore are frequently used to close out certain tracks, as if to contribute a gentle touch to the music. All of this is rounded out with vocalist Emi Akatsu’s convincing--albeit one dimensional--growls. The combined effect is a smooth sound with a faint edge, thanks to the album mixing, which emphasizes Akatsu’s vocals until guitarists Freddy and Ryuji seek to take over with style and substance.
Synthesizers also play a heavy role, something the album immediately establishes on a cinematic level as opener “Earthrise” yields to “A Torch for Avengers." From there it’s an almost unrelenting supply of epic, grandiose tracks, with “Genesis” serving as an early interlude, and the title track serving as a rousing conclusion. In many ways, each song is like a scene from a summer action blockbuster, the kind that wows with its spectacular effects and sublime scenery. Unlike other, similarly symphonic affairs, however, The Eclipse
abstains from lengthy tracks, opting to dole out its extravagances in three-to-four-minute intervals. This stake in brevity is further reinforced by the album’s forgiving 40-minute runtime. As a result, The Eclipse
gracefully avoids feeling like a burden that drags its listener through passage after passage for the sake of indulgence.
What Serenity in Murder have brought us with The Eclipse
is an album that, despite its familiar adherence to melodic death metal, manages to be refreshing in how it implements its other elements. To say the album has a lot going on is a definite understatement, so the fact that everything is combined so concisely makes The Eclipse
feel as comfortable as it is intriguing. Much like the recurring sound of waves pushing against sandy shores, The Eclipse
is serene, inviting and hits with just enough strength to keep us engaged for many listens.