Friday, December 02, 2011

Souldrainer: Heaven's Gate (2011)


I was contacted by ViciSolum Productions with a review copy of Souldrainer's sophomore album, Heaven's Gate. Souldrainer is a melodic death metal band from the home of melo-death, Sweden.

Now, I've made disparaging remarks about the genre in the past. It's not that I don't like melo-death, it's just that nobody has done anything worthwhile or different with it for the past couple of years. But this is just different enough to warrant a second look.

Melo-death has often been cited as a bridge between mainstream metal and extreme metal. I myself made the transition from Spineshank to Suffocation with a stop at Soilwork. Well, Souldrainer seem to embrace that. Their slow- to mid-paced death incorporates plenty of melodic riffs drawn from more mainstream sources, and synths (usually choral) add drama while rarely becoming a distraction. "Gate Guard" has a couple sections that could have been taken straight from Static-X. "The God Delusion" also includes violins--I think genuine violins, but they could be synths. And it does all this without seeming to compromise on the melo-death ethos.

Half the time, I expect Cristina Scabbia to jump in at any moment, but the hoarse Swe-death vocal is all you get. The delivery does bring Gojira's Joseph Duplantier to mind (see "Goodbye Farewell").

The riffs may be derivative, but they've at the least been exported to a new context, i.e., gothic or nu metal riffs taken to the melo-death genre. And more importantly, the songs end up catchy, and it's tough to argue with that. At 50 minutes the album does drag on a bit near the end. Weak links "Remember Me" and "Dying for Your Sick Belief" should have been cut. But still, this is pretty damn good.

The Verdict: Melo-death is out of style, and gothic or nu metal have never been considered the height of metal cred. But I think that complete disregard for what's cool is what's endeared me so much to this band. No, the music isn't completely original, and the album is a tad too long. But the bottom line is, the songs are catchy. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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