Any metal-head is sure to have heard the name Christian Alvestam uttered at least a few times before. The man’s name is practically synonymous with his (now) former band, Scar Symmetry
, one of the front-runners of the modern melodic death metal scene. Before the inception of Scar Symmetry
however, Christian was part of another death metal band.
Formed in 1993 by Alvestam, (vocals/guitar) Richard Larsson (guitars) and Torbjorn Ohrling (bass), the trio began as a simple groove metal band and released three demos over the course of five years. They gained little recognition until their third demo, “More to the Story than Meets the Eye” gained moderate critical acclaim from the metal underground in Sweden. Unmoored gained a contract with Pulverized Records and recorded their first two albums, “Cimmerian” and “Kingdoms of Greed” in 1997 and 1999 respectively. Over these years the band’s sound evolved as elements of thrash, progressive, and even black metal were added to the original groovy riffs of their demos. And after a number of lineup changes left Alvestam as the only founding member remaining, Unmoored hit Abyss Studios to record their third full-length album, Indefinite Soul-Extension
. The product can best be described as a mixture of progressive metal heavyweights Edge of Sanity
, another one of Alvestam’s bands.
On its exterior, Indefinite Soul-Extension
is eight songs and 45 minutes of blazing death metal. Look no further than the furious two and a half minute barrage of riffs that is “Morndraper” for proof of that. However, beyond the exterior traces of classic thrash and black metal can be found. Tying these three subgenres of extreme metal together is a noticeable influence of progressive metal. Indeed, each song on the album (besides the previously mentioned “Morndraper) is death metal inked with song-structures more akin to progressive metal. Every other song on the album lasts 5:30 or longer, contains a multitude of thrashy riffs, shred-tastic solos, rumbling basslines, and underlying synths that compliment the unrelenting assault with eerie atmospherics and the occasion industrial overtone.
Christian is stronger than ever vocally on this album and uses three main types of vocals. Most commonly used are his deep death metal growls, yet a higher, raspier scream more akin to black metal is used sparingly as well (see the downright evil “Spit Forth From Failure). Fans of Scar Symmetry are not to be disappointed either, Christian uses his trademark soaring clean vocals on six of the eight tracks on the album, most notably on the entirely cleanly-sung closer, “Final State Part III (Posthumous Writings)”. However, unlike in Scar Symmetry where the poppy, cleanly sung choruses tend to be the centerpiece of the song, Alvestam’s cleans here are used more to enhance the effect of the entire of the song as a whole. That’s not to say the songs aren’t catchy, opener “Unspeakable Grief” and “Cinders Veil” have choruses which are entirely catchy and hummable. It’s just that in Scar Symmetry, Alvestam was almost always the focal point of the music no matter how impressive the guitar interplay was, while Indefinite Soul-Extension
feels much more like a full-band effort.
As impressive as Alvestam’s vocal performance is, the highlight of the band would have to be the guitar interplay between Alvestam and lead-guitarist Tomas Johansson. For the album’s first seven songs, riff after riff pummel the listener into submission, only for the angelic cleans of Alvestam to soothe the wounds before the process repeats. In true progressive fashion, most of the songs contain multiple guitar solos, which are highly impressive on a technical level, yet never are drawn out to the point of wankery. The best example of this would be on arguably the best track of the album “Cinders Veil.” During the last 1:50 of this almost six-minute track Johansson really shines with a stunning guitar solo which not only shreds, but supplies a healthy dose of tasteful melody. Also notable is the more melodious solo which ends the beautiful closer, and album on a very high note. The duo of Alvestam and Johansson proof to be very versatile, providing brutal riffs in “Unspeakable Grief” and “Commit to the Fire,” spacey progressive leads in “Phase of Revulsion” and even light acoustic/clean playing in “Final State Pt. III.”
That’s not to say the other members of the band aren’t impressive as well. Drummer Henrik Schonstrom, while not always the most creative in terms of varying his beats, has impressively fast feet, best showcased during the chaotic finale of “Unspeakable Grief.” On “Phase of Revulsion,” the longest and most progressive song on the album at 7:30, he does a great job of providing quick fills between the song’s many time and phrase changes, making a song which could have been a bit sloppy into one of the album’s smoother tracks. I feel inclined to mention the bass as well (which was provided Christian Alvestam yet again) but as is unfortunate for most metal, it really isn’t noticed at all unless close attention is paid.
Session keyboardist John Astrand is also very prominently in the mix of the album. Though he never does anything that particularly stands out, he provides the eerie, sci-fi atmosphere of the album and it would definitely be noticed if he was absent. His most interesting work is perhaps on “Spit Forth From Failure,” a seven minute track which sounds downright evil with Astrand’s sinister keys in the foreground and Alvestam’s layered black metal rasps.
The album’s production was handled by the legendary Peter Tatgren and is crystal-clear. My only gripe would be that sometimes, Christian’s death growls seem to be a little bit low in the mix compared the guitars, but it is a very minor quip.
There’s something to love here for all fans of extreme metal, whether it be the Between the Buried and Me
loving prog-nerd, the rough, angular Meshuggah
fans, and even the “pop-metal” Scar Symmetry lovers.
Don’t be put off by that statement, at it’s core Indefinite Soul-Extension
is definitely a death metal record. And it’s Progressive Death Metal done ***ing impressively at that.
Phase of Revulsion
Spit Forth From Failure
Final State Part III (Posthumous Writings)
Notice how that’s five of the eight tracks" Just listen to the whole thing.