Souldrainer - _Architect_
(ViciSolum Productions, 2014)
by: Chaim Drishner (8 out of 10)
It's somewhat baffling reviewing back to back some very different releases coming from the same label, all bearing the "death metal" name tag, but sharing nothing in common. How different are they from each other? As different as one can imagine.

Ironically, said albums -- all showing different faces of the art of metal and all falling under the death metal category as aforementioned -- have nothing in common other than their metallic essence; the relations between Solace of Requiem's (the quirky, twisted, sophisticated wiz kid), Sectu's (the dark, ugly and dissonant black sheep of the family) and Souldrainer's (the elegant, melodic and classy) latest efforts are virtually nil. Each album portrays such a different approach to death metal than the other two, it's uncanny how all three above mentioned albums are still regarded as death metal music.

But that's the beauty of heavy metal, we assume; its spectrum is so broad, suffice the core aesthetics are there, you can taint it all you want with colorful patches, ornamentation of any sort and kind, or other superfluous layers of vanity -- and it will still remain (death) metal.

Out of the batch of worthy albums sent to us courtesy of Vicisolum Productions, Souldrainer's _Architect_ is the most approachable, straightforward and simple-minded of the lot, offering a no-frills, beautiful and powerful linearity, in the Hypocrisy vein. The strong Hypocrisy leanings (somewhere between _The Forth Dimension_, _Abducted_ and _The Final Chapter_) coupled with clear symphonic innuendos embodied by lush and potent keyboards and choir-like splashes of sound (without which, the album wouldn't have sounded as engaging) and simplistic and quite unadventurous song writing abilities -- result in a surprisingly enjoyable album one wouldn't have to break one's head to 'get into'.

See, Souldrainer take metal music backwards in time, to an era when and where melody reigned supreme and basic verse-chorus-verse song structuring meant something for someone; a time where metal music was the herald of social awareness, the world's very conscience and its most rowdy moral booster, speaking about the wrongdoings and habitual evils of the world, aspiring to change the current world order with its sonic powers. But who listens to metal artists anyway? They, for the most part, are preaching to the choir. But we can tell you that much, at least: give us any day texts dealing with the downfall of mankind manifested by every goddamn man-made evil, big or small, coupled with strong musical backdrop to match, and we'll prefer that without even thinking too much, over other popular themes infesting the metal scene, such as monsters, Satan, fictional deities and ancient, fat, jellyfish-like creatures lurking on the ocean's seabed.

Catch the drift? If metal music cannot be related to and assimilated through its textual content, then half of its charm is gone.

The death metal of Souldrainer has got the distinctive Swedish sound of the aforementioned Hypocrisy (well, not exactly, as their sound is a product of a hybridization of both the Hypocrisy sound and the Gothenburg scene's melodic death metal sound and style); the album balances well between the atmospheric, melodic death metal paradigms of the aforementioned distinctive Gothenburg sound, and the heavier, darker and sharper, essentially less melodic brand of macho death metal, perfected by Hypocrisy's above mentioned unholy trinity circa 1994-1997.

The album starts off rather weak, with some melodic death metal cliché riffs and a vocalist who's trying too hard to sound tough and intimidating, but when the first chorus drops in, the excitement begins. Sure, there might be some chorus line textual repetitions which you might find too simplistic to appreciate, but overall, the excellent song architecture, albeit orderly and repetitive due to the verse-chorus-verse-repeat chorus paradigm, showcases a supreme grasp of melody, harmony and atmosphere, taken to the next level by the orchestral maneuvers of the enormous keyboard sound and the quasi-symphonic arrangement.

Even the vocalist becomes a musical boosting factor, accommodating to the natural flow and sound, as he no longer -- after the first and wrong impression has faded -- tries too hard to become what he's not; his gritty, dark voice becomes the music's driving force, a menacing performance flowing effortlessly, complementing and upgrading the music.

Biological experiments, death penalty, executions, the destruction of the world, are all themes you will find dealt with by Souldrainer's _Architect_. The texts are as simple and in-your-face as the music: unapologetic, devoid of flattery and vehement; the passion and vitriol with which the music is presented is awe-inspiring and hair raising.

_Architect_ is one of the very best melodic death metal albums out there from recent years. Its grasp of melody is outstanding, delivering larger-than-life, lush and textured, harrowing and all-encompassing metal music of utter beauty and power, without obsessing over speed or redundant complexity. Fans of A Canorous Quintet, old In Flames, mid-era Gorefest and off course Hypocrisy's milestone albums recorded between 1994 and 1997 -- must, simply must, listen to this outstanding recording.

_Architect_ sees melodic death metal at the zenith of the style's expressive abilities, unlocking wonders and unleashing some of the best tunes ever composed in metal's history, without re-inventing the wheel whatsoever.


(article published 7/7/2014)

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