Sweden has always been a country that carried a variety of offerings. When you hear thrash/speed, it certainly isn’t the first country that comes to mind, but from the depths of Gothenburg comes the robust band known as Black Cyclone. Early on this year, their debut Death Is King would hit the scene, following up a couple demos that were released some years back. Essentially, there’s a blunt projection of ‘80s thrash, as well as moments of stripped down speed metal that take back the ferocity an inch or two. Mostly though, this serves as a strong throwback to the roots of the style.
Raw riffage with a speed-tastic overload can sometimes be very sloppy, but in this case, it’s actually quite concise. Instead of being a bunch of overused power chords, the guitar licks are raining all over the place, and deliver very bouncy rhythms that don’t get drowned out by the desire to go crazy with speed. Strong resemblance of Metallica’s early days is present everywhere. The opening track “Death Is Crowned As King” greatly reflects the style used on “Hit The Lights”, but isn’t so close to it that it appears to be a rip-off. Assisting this is also a more rugged feel to the music, which allows it to stand apart as well. Vocally, it’s a little different, as there is a higher pitched tone, keeping the octaves up whenever the pace is faster. At the same time, Linus maintains the ability to drop a little lower for the slower, more melodic parts. Sometimes the voice can get a little sloppy, and burst through the instrumentation a bit too much, but a lot of that is likely due to sub-par production.
The good thing about the rougher edges is that it adds an extra punch to the songs. Crunchier overtones take the forefront here, which fits well with the songwriting. I wouldn’t call this punk by any means, but there is a strong attitude in the construction that greatly resembles punk stylistics. One of the best tracks, “Falling Star” has this snarling energy that bares a threat to the eardrum in a fantastic way. Picture something along the lines of earlier Overkill, but not quite holding the intensity as high. Other moments take it down a notch, like the mighty “Beast Battalion”, or the slower, doomier number that comes later. These songs keep it interesting, and prevent it from suffering from samey syndrome, or dragging on too much. Of course, the record is only a little over a half hour long, so that wouldn’t be as much of a problem anyway. Solos are a prominent feature as well, which adds some extra toppings for sure, although admittedly it can get a little too fret-happy at times. Not that that’s terrible, but the strong foundation presented in the rhythmic chugs doesn’t always align with it. Oh well, what are you going to do?
When push comes to shove, Death Is King is a clear attempt at reviving the classics from decades ago, and they do a solid job of making that clear without being an exact copy. Borrowing multiple influences as well as adding a crunchy layer makes it standout better, and the short run-time keeps it from dragging. Is there room for improvement, sure, but how often isn’t there? Anybody that digs speed and thunderous tones should give this disc a spin.
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