Friday, February 27, 2015

Ten Albums you should get instead of At War With Reality

At this point, it's pretty obvious that the new At The Gates album is a bust. Put in the difficult position of following up one of the most influential albums of all time, the band released a paint by numbers yawnfest that could have come from any of the melodic death metal bands that followed in the wake of Slaughter of the Soul. That being the case, maybe fans should consider spending their money on one of these overshadowed albums instead...

Anything by Dark Tranquillity

Unlike At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity never went away. They also proved themselves unafraid of taking chances, diversifying with every album and expanding not only their own boundaries but "The Gothenberg Sound" in general. They may not be the most famous band out of Gothenberg, but they represented their city longer and better than any of their peers.

Eucharist - Mirrorworlds

Despite having Daniel Erlandsson (younger brother of ATG's Adrian) on drums, Eucharist are unsing heroes of the Gothenberg scene, playing a dischordant, melancholic style of death metal that only vaguely resembled the big names of the scene. Mirrorworlds, their second album, came after a period of acrimony within the band that temporarily put it on ice. A vacant drum position in Arch Enemy (not to mention Carcass) put the band to rest for good.

The Haunted - The Haunted Made Me Do It

That At The Gates would reunite seems obvious and inevitable in hindsight, but in the late Nineties it looked like The Haunted were as close as fans were going to get. And in fairness, that was pretty damn close. While their self-titled debut was an unabashed love letter to thrash metal (and played no small role in spurring the ensuing revival), the second Haunted album bettered it by combining thrash exuberance with the dark melodies that the Björler brothers pioneered. The result was a masterpiece that balanced speed, melody, and brutality far more effectively than any of the participating musicians have managed since.

The Crown - Crowned in Terror

Likewise, when The Crown announced that Tomas Lindberg would be their new vocalist, the excitement from At The Gates fans was overwhelming. It didn't hurt that Lindberg joined the band while they were significantly picking up steam. The result was nothing less than one of the best albums in the history of death metal.

Sacrilege - Lost in the Beauty You Slay/The Fifth Season

Every hesher worth his salt will proselytize on behalf of some little known band that flew under the radar before disappearing. [Hell, this blog seems to exist for no other reason.] High on that list for me is Gothenberg's Sacrilege, who I encountered for the first time in high school and who mesmerized me with their sombre style of melodic death metal. The band was on the verge of bigger things when drummer Daniel Svensson bailed to join In Flames, seemingly scuttling Sacrilege for good.

Armageddon - Crossing the Rubicon

Like Eucharist, Armageddon also had a member living in the shadow of a more famous older sibling; in this case, Christopher Amott, the younger brother of Arch Enemy/Carcass fretwanker Michael Amott. The two brothers do share similarities, but where Arch Enemy fell victim to Mike Amott's ever increasing Michael Schenker-isms, Armageddon drew from more progressive influences. Crossing the Rubicon is a testament to its creators' ambition and chutzpah, a remarkably accomplished debut overflowing with potential the younger Amott has yet to live up to. But having recently ditched Arch Enemy and relaunched Armageddon, there's still hope that will be rectified. 

Ebony Tears - A Handful of Nothing

It would be hard to imagine a more transparent attempt to recreate Slaughter of the Soul (besides, you know...); from the noise intro to the ambient instrumental that serves as its midway point, A Handful of Nothing is less a case of riding another band's coattails and more an attempt to steal their coats when they're gone. That said, the album is flawless, with songs that have held up a decade after the Gothenberg heyday. An entrenched staple of my running playlist - it's that good.

Dimension Zero - Silent Night Fever

Dimension Zero's profile benefited from the presence of Jesper Strombland and Glenn Ljungström of In Flames, who released this debut at the height of their other band's popularity. But Silent Night Fever is more indebted to Slaughter of the Soul, which it occasionally one-ups in its single-minded pursuit of speed. The album also benefits from a throat-searing performance by Marduk's Jocke Göthberg that rivals Tomas Lindberg. Dimension Zero released a couple more albums, but none captured the magic found here. For both Dimension Zero and At The Gates, lightning only struck once.

Darkest Hour - The Eternal Return

Sure, Darkest Hour belong to that pack of hardcore kids who ditched their skate shoe roots and ran lemming-like towards melodic death metal; and yes, their first two albums showed the over-eagerness and shamelessness you'd expect from the recently converted. But while the most popular bands of the Myspace era latched on to clean vocals and breakdowns, Darkest Hour seemed dedicated to proving their bonafides as a pure metal band; no more was that sincerity more obvious than on 2009's The Eternal Return. Combining the menace of Slayer and early Death with the grandiosity of Maiden and Priest, Darkest Hour distanced themselves from the rest of the "metalcore" pack and justified Tomas Lindberg's fondness for them with the most accomplished album of their career.

Evocation - Apocalyptic

Evocation are a strange case - a Gothenberg band who had Stockholm Syndrome, disappeared in the early 90's as that style picked up steam, reformed when the old school revival got underway, but abandoned their original sound to play melodic death metal just as the underground began turning its nose up at it. I can't tell whether Evocation's habit of ditching styles just as they're getting popular is a matter of principle or simply bad timing, but on Apocalyptic, they delivered a late-period melodic death metal album that showed this corpse still has some bite left in it.