By: Matt Butler
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Released on October 13, 2016 via Sideburn Records / Consouling Agency
A palm-muted riff goes a long way in a metal record.
This album, the debut from a quartet from Belgium, is replete with palm-muted muscle. And so it should be, with its roots clearly in thrash metal of the sort that is just the right speed to match an adrenalised heartbeat.
But this is no play-fast-and-scream-about-
But make no mistake, just because this release shows a bit of intelligence, that doesn’t mean to say it’s a difficult listen or you need a degree in pure maths and music theory to enjoy it. It is, above all else, a very good slab of high-speed metal, played by people with an ear for a crunching breakdown or a soaring chorus, as well as barreling riffage. Just as you could sit in a comfortable chair and listen to the variations and nuances, you could also slap it in your car stereo and drive exceedingly unsafely to this music.
As you can hear in ‘Dawn of Time’ the second track after ‘Beginnings’ which, er, begins things nicely. The galloping pace of ‘Dawn of Time’ is punctuated by soaring half-speed sections and eye-watering guitar solos. ‘Divine Providence’ follows in a similar vein; it is a mammoth mid-tempo stomper for the most part, but it is bookended by some high speed flourishes. ‘A Bond Beyond Blood’ begins as a proper old-school thrasher – with tons of satisfying chug-chug-chug riffs and comes complete with a menacing breakdown – whereas the slower ‘Theodicy’ showcases guiatarist/vocalist Kevin Spruyt rasping style and drummer Sam Stoelzaet’s love for a thunderous double-kick.
The next three songs ‘Punishment from Above’, ‘Dualism’ and ‘Poisonos Gift’, continue in much the same thrash-with-added-extras vein, with the latter song possibly suffering from being perhaps a couple of minutes too long. ‘Manifestation of Evil’ lurches into black metal territory after a near-clean beginning, and the change of pace and atmosphere is welcome.
The title track ‘Pandora’, on the other hand, almost has a stoner-style feel to it, in the same way as the Polish death metal outfit Decapitated displayed in their 2014 masterpiece Blood Mantra: just because you play fast and darkly, it doesn’t preclude you from enjoying a decent riff. The album ends on a great note with ‘Hidden in Tragedy’ a hook-laden and fast-as-hell finale.
It is an encouraging and accomplished debut from a band that as well as has a deep love for the palm-muted riff, are clearly open to new ideas in metal. And that is a great combination.