Here is a pretty good Soilwork album, working with interesting melodies and stories, creating a melodic death/power metal hybrid with an identity of its own.
The album is not what you’d expect of a typical melodic death metal album, meaning it’s not as heavy as you might wish and doesn’t use that many growls. Or at least, the growls are just one of the many different vocal styles, some soft and some less so. For example, the title track begins with dramatic keys and faint operatic background vocals, before thrashy riffs, raspy, angry singing, softer singing and growling. Like the rest of the album, this first track makes a great use of Soilwork’s sense of bright, catchy melodies.
With a sense of heaviness too, but most track still have distinctive melodies and catchy choruses. That’s why I called it a power metal and death metal hybrid, with songs about all kinds of adventures and somewhat of a dark edge. This mixture doesn’t always work, like on “Nous Sommes La Guerre”, which is a little too soft for a song with “war” in the title, but still kind of catchy, and with a nice guitar solo.
The best examples of mixing heaviness and melody would be “Valleys of Gloam” and its fast, catchy chorus, as well as a strange feeling of doom. “Golgata” has the heaviest, meanest, growl-based verses, with a fast riff and a catchy chorus. “Death I Hear You Calling” is irresistibly catchy, and has some pretty powerful lyrics about refusing to die. It uses singing, growling and a power metal high note. “This Godless Universe” starts with melancholic piano, and uses occasional sad violins, contrasted with growls and heavy riffs. “Dreams of Nowhere” is a mostly catchy track with occasional growls. “Harvest Spine” is also fast and catchy, but with heavier vocals. But most of the heavier stuff works, like the aptly named “Electric Again”, which sees a return to distorted guitars and a mix of harsh vocals and powerful singing. Or “Is it in Your Darkness”, its relentlessly fast riff and infectious energy, and “Vultures”, with its loud scream at the beginning and mean, heavy riffs. But even this one mostly uses clean vocals and ends on melancholic piano. The subdued and melancholic piano returns in instrumentals “Morgongåva / Stormfågel” and “The Everlasting Flame”. The last track “On the Wings of a Goddess/Through Flaming Sheets of Rain” includes spoken word about a character’s invulnerability, heavy riffs, raspy singing, screaming. It has the same catchy melody and energy as other tracks, but it’s longer, more ambitious and more epic. It makes a pretty good ending for the album.
This was a strange album to listen to and to review. Not because it’s some kind of experimental stuff that doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever heard, but because the contrast between the enthusiastic singing, catchy, almost poppy tunes, and the lyrics about war, death and the end of the world can be really disconcerting. This, and the facts that the album can be a little formulaic, as melodeath/metalcore is often accused of being, and that Björn Strid mostly sings and growls a little less, rather than doing both styles an equal amount of times, make the album a little difficult to get used to. But like many other things I find strange and try to understand, this album caught my interest. Something about all the references to death and apocalypses hint at a strange, eerie story behind the songs, and it doesn’t hurt that the songs are really catchy, with an irresistible energy and a pretty good, versatile vocal performance. It’s a very special power/melodic death metal album, with interesting stories and an interesting sound. If you’re in the right mood for it, prepare to hear a fascinating album that also sounds good and will put you in a good mood.
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