Monday, May 13, 2013

melodic/growl metal: Be'Lakor; Blinded by Faith; Kalmah; Killswitch Engage; Soilwork

The bands in this section have in common the melodic segments (guitar and/or singing) and heavier, growling parts. Sometimes it’s a back and forth switching, like Soilwork or Killswitch Engage. Sometimes it’s not a change between harsh/melodic, but rather an amalgamation/layering of heaviness with melody rolled into a single, consistent bundle, like Be’lakor.
Be’lakor (Australia): “Of Breath and Bone”
Blinded by Faith (Canada): “Chernobyl Survivor”
Kalmah (Finland): “Seventh Swamphony”
Killswitch Engage (U.S.): “Disarm the Descent”
Soilwork (Sweden): “The Living Infinite”
Judging by the music on here, Be’Lakor enjoys classic 90s In Flames and Dark Tranquillity. The vocals go for a low, gruff growl (not scream/sing vocals). The identity of Be’lakor comes from the foundation of rhythms, on a guitar tone close to death metal, with a second layering of dominant and constant guitar melodies. Meaning, Be’lakor layers the melodies on top of the heavy riffing throughout the duration of the songs, maintaining the dual nature of the guitar work. Be’lakor in 2013 swims against the stream by playing longer, mid/uptempo (no blasting) songs for almost an hour of music: 3 songs are 9 minutes, 3 tracks over 6 min., and 1 song that’s 8 min. They take their time, and appear oblivious to commercial pressure or trends. Recommended for fans of classic 90s Gothenburg sounds, and also more current, for fans of Insomnium.
Blasting and speed in general, with raspy, screechy vocals forms the basis of Blinded by Faith. The raspy vocals are of the high variety, as found in early Emperor, early Children of Bodom, as well as in some metalcore/emo screaming. That part of the band’s sound is more for fans of this particular kind of screaming. In comparison with the other bands in this section, Blinded by Faith is by far the fastest, and is likely to make an impact the most quickly. For example, compared to Blinded by Faith, Be’lakor sounds moody, mellow and mature, while BbF is frenetic, frazzled, hip and modern. Having said that, Blinded by Faith gives me the feeling that maybe they try to do too much, for this style. Evidence of this aspect may be that after listening to this title a few times, I still don’t really recall the songs.
June 18, 2013 is the official release date for the new Kalmah album. Very reliably on their 7th title, Kalmah continues on the path of a band that never wants to disappoint nor freak out its followers. Once again, Kalmah comes up with guitar work that sounds like black metal and power metal, with thrashy and tremolo riffs, and hooks at every turn. Kalmah underlines riffs, taking the double road that has marked their trajectory: melodies layered above heavy riffs. Some moments are melodic, others are very melodic, some are fast, and others, blazing speed. The vocal style seems to have stabilized for the band: mostly gruff growling, with some snarls peppered in places. Seven albums in, and Kalmah sounds as confident, stable, predictable, and strong as ever.
Killswitch Engage have put their best, most commercially viable foot forward. They knew that they needed to bring it, and have good reason to be pleased. The songs are very memorable, have thrashing moments, shredding, moshing parts, energetic/blasting segments, melodic (poppy, even) moments and growling and screams, and a huge emphasis on the scream/sing switching back and forth. Very commercially sensible and business savvy: the 12 songs, (about 3:30 minutes on average) have a basic formula of thrashy riffs over growling, and melodic singing over memorable hooks. Killswitch Engage has put a serious effort into establishing themselves again with their new, returning vocalist Jesse Leach. Their fans should be pretty glad, and some very happy that JL is back.
This 84-minute, double title “The Living Infinite” by Soilwork is the most exciting music since 2002’s “Natural Born Chaos,” which made them a brand within the style of melodic growl metal. If you like Soilwork, this will be an enormously pleasant surprise. When a band does a very long album, sometimes I fear that the band will bore me with non-song time-consumers (to be pompous or “complex,” maybe to fulfill some contract obligation). Sometimes bands do long songs with much filler (keyboard solos, bass solos, spoken parts, interludes, so on and so forth). Unexpectedly, Soilwork sticks to doing what they do best: songs that are not too long, that are memorable, poppy in places, with blasting speed or bursts of energy, and thrashy riffs. They simply rolled up their sleeves and got down to work. I believe that they worked very hard to put together a strong album, and it really shows. If you have liked any Soilwork in the past, without a doubt whatsoever, you should seriously consider supporting the band on this endeavor because it is a remarkable effort that maintains a high standard.

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