Undrask – Battle Through Time
Location: North Carolina
The Swedish melodic death metal scene of the 90s is responsible for producing some of the greatest records in extreme metal history, such as The Gallery by Dark Tranquillity and Slaughter of the Soul by At The Gates. As is the case with every genre, there have been quite a number of bands influenced by the pioneers of melodic death metal, particularly in the United States with bands like Killswitch Engage and All That Remains. It’s rare, however, to hear a band that plays the sound so well that they sound like the originators, rather than imitators, but that’s exactly what Undrask have done with their latest release, Battle Through Time.
If you were to listen to Battle Through Time without having read anything about Undrask, chances are you would assume they were from Gothenburg, Sweden, and not, in fact, North Carolina. With flashy, lead guitar bits permeating every crunchy, distorted riff, Undrask play the kind of melodic death metal that put In Flames (particularly their early material) on the map. “Conscripted” is a perfect example, with its heavy, chuggy riff accompanied by catchy lead guitar bits that sound like the twin-guitar attack of classic bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. The vocals are growled, but have more range than most bands playing this style, with mid-ranged growls, to higher pitched shrieks, and everything in between, giving the music another boost in the heaviness department. “Black Ocean” is another particular favorite of mine, with its progressive rock-influenced time signature changes, and brutal riffs that quickly switch to a more melodic tone seamlessly.
The production and musicianship on Battle Through Time are both top-notch, though they’re not entirely without flaw. “Final Right,” for instance, has a little guitar and bass section where the two musicians trade off licks, and while the technical prowess is impressive, the execution comes off as a little forced. Still, there is plenty of excellent material here to keep that one section from being a distraction. If you enjoy early In Flames or Amon Amarth, Undrask is certainly worth your time.
Body Voids – Ruins
Location: San Francisco
Label: Crown And Throne Ltd
I am always on the lookout for bands that add a little extra atmosphere into their sound, which is why I like bands like Deathspell Omega, Neurosis, and Bölzer more than most other bands in their respective genres. Sludge, in particular, lends itself easily to experimentation, with bands like Primitive Man and Thou adding a blackened edge to an already heavy genre.
Ruins, the debut from San Francisco’s Body Voids, plays out in a similar to those bands, with painfully shrill screams, monolithic riffs alternating between super slow and punk rock speed, and a super fuzzy distortion. “Erased,” for example, is a fast number that comes off as a fuzzed-out, d-beat ode to Eyehategod’s punkier side, while “Swan” has moments of quiet introspection that get shattered by huge, ear-drum destroying walls of distortion and down-tuned guitars. There are a lot of dynamics in volume and speed, but Body Voids also know when to change the mood, as can be heard on the title track “Ruins.” Clocking in at over 16 minutes, “Ruins” has a dark, evil sounding doom riff that eventually evolves into a more melodic, melancholy section, which again, gives way to a punk rock section.
The production is super murky, with lots of feedback and fuzzy, overdriven guitars, but this actually matches the tone of the music perfectly. The music is, at times, earth shatteringly heavy, but can also be moody, and even somewhat beautiful, and would probably last some of its allure had the production been too clean sounding. Body Voids manage to add a lot to the sludge genre with Ruins, giving fans of Primitive Man, Thou, and The Body another great record to add to their collection of soundtracks to the apocalypse.