You’ve probably already heard about this band. As far as we know, they’re Northern Ireland’s first Christian metal band! And a decent band at that. This slab of extreme metal is certainly a welcome addition to the death metal scene.
Before you pop the disc in, or sync it up in your e-music player, one of the first things you’ll notice is the length of the album–16 tracks and over 74 minutes long! But will it hold our attention? After an instrumental opening track with lots of atmospheric keyboards, the band rips into “This Hollow Way of Thinking.” Amidst rifftastic guitar leads and fast-paced death metal drumming, we find surprisingly distinguishable vocals. This is a step in the right direction for those who often like extreme metal . . . but can’t get into harsh vocals. “LEECH” continues the riffing and increases the pace with blastbeats aplenty and an almost thrash-like approach on the verses.
By the time we get to “At the Gates of Depravity,” we’re in for the long haul. Clocking in at over 8 minutes in length, the band are out to prove their worth. While things definitely get interesting with some hard-to-follow rhythm changes–not so much start/stop as start/slow down/speed back up/start again–I find the track gets a little too busy with some competing vocal lines. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great track, just seems a little more editing was needing on the chopping floor. “Last Call” begins with a haunting, ancient warcry-like banging drum, followed by use of the horned instrument, the shofar, making this one of the more unusual tracks. The track also features use of clean vocals, a trick the band are not afraid to employ across Apocalyptic Visions from time to time. Tracks 7 and 8 both feel a bit disjointed. Between the complicated rhythms and the vocals, sometimes seem a bit forced to my ears. “Serpent Rising” feels particularly disjointed and messy, and not in a good way.
“Walk Among the Dead” is another keyboard instrumental, and although sometimes such tracks can add some atmosphere, this one feels out of place to me. Not to worry though as track 11, “Necronemesis” gets back into the death metal. But again we have some of the same problems we found in earlier tracks. The shredding riffs are there but round about the 4:00 minute marks, it gets overly busy and slightly disjointed. It feels that at times the band is attempting to play faster than they (or perhaps anyone?) are actually capable, leaving things in a jumbled mess. While this may sound like a critique of the band, it’s actually more a critique of the producer.
While this album’s problems have been highlighted, I’m still very optimistic about this band. They do not lack ability nor creativity, and their black-infused death metal strikes an original chord. My advice to them for their next effort (not that they’ve asked) would be to shorten the album and focus more on production values, particularly when it comes to layering the various sounds and instruments in the recording process.