Review Summary: Still in the midst of an identity crisis.
Rejoice, everyone near and far! Deadlock have abandoned the boring direction of their most recent and most disastrous album!
Have we finished celebrating now? Good. Because, despite Hybris
's highs, there's still work to be done to return Deadlock to the glory of their Wolves
days. And it starts on track one.
Listen closely to the start of "Epitaph" - the album's opener. Does it sound a little familiar? Listen also to "Blood Ghost." Still on the tip of your tongue? Both tracks borrow heavily
from Killswitch Engage. I hear a lot of "Rose of Sharyn" in each track, but there's enough bits and pieces of other Killswitch staples and styles present that are so easily recognizable that to say the songs are Killswitch "worship" would undercut the severity of what may, in fact, be plagiarism.
That's the "ugly" of Hybris
. Want more? This is Deadlock's first album without clean vocalist Sabine (Weniger) Scherer. I know - I know
. Fear! Panic! But now here's the good: replacement Margie Gerlitz is actually a strong, mostly seamless replacement for Sabine. In fact, her singing is so seamless that it's downright jarring when she uses the upper echelon of her voice on "Ein Deutsches Requiem" (a fairly strange and mostly unnecessary take on Brahms), since it exceeds the highs previously heard from Sabine. However, this upper range is generally unused elsewhere on Hybris
, and it's mostly for the best, since it borders on feeling disruptive on "Requiem" and would be even more out of place elsewhere. Nevertheless, Margie deserves sincere praise for living up to the very high expectations fans will have for any replacement of Sabine.
Speaking of vocal expectations, harsh vocalist John Gahlert seems to have finally risen to his. Gahlert's screams on Hybris
feel much more authoritative and far less hollow than they did on The Arsonist
, which is bound to be a product of both experience and a better backing track. There are still hiccups (the power metal grunting gone wrong on "Wrath - Salvation," the constipated chanting on "Welcome Deathrow," his cleaner contributions to "Carbonman"), but for the most part, Gahlert proves a palatable screamer on Hybris
But where Hybris
is a mark of progress for the group, the journey from abomination to perfection is obviously a long one. It's well-navigated by tracks like "Berserk" - easily the most comparable to Deadlock's earliest and best efforts - and the catchy "Hybris," which will appease those in favor of Deadlock's pop-seasoned Bizarro World
approach. "Vergebung" (German for "forgiveness," and almost certainly directly related to the preceding full minute of silence dedicated to the deceased Graf) also offers a bright and well-crafted acoustic interlude that's new to Deadlock, but not unwelcome, and some of the Eastern melodic flair at the end of "Blood Ghost" is downright cool.
But while these tracks are a step in the right direction for Deadlock, Hybris
is still strides away from the band's best efforts. Too much of the album simply feels like plagiarism either of others or of the self to consider Hybris
much more than the awkward teen phase of Deadlock's rebirth in the modern era. Couple that with the uncertain mashings of power metal, metalcore, and melodeath presented on the album, and the only thing that's clear right now is that Deadlock are still in the midst of an identity crisis as a band whittled down to its last founding member. Yet, while it's nothing spectacular in its own right, Hybris
at least presents some room for optimistic conversation around the band's future, which is more than fans were offered on the band's last outing.