The Few Against Many - _Sot_
(Pulverised Records, 2009)
by: Mark Dolson (8.5 out of 10)
Christian Älvestam and company are at it again; and, yes, with The Few Against Many's _Sot_ (literally "soot" in English) we've got catchy Swedish death metal with a few twists here and there. Aside from his many other bands, such as Unmoored, Scar Symmetry, Torchbearer, Miseration and Incapacity, just to name a few -- wow, this fellow is prolific, eh? -- The Few Against Many sound somewhat like Torchbearer's latest effort, _Warnaments_ (2006). There are a few salient differences however: whereas _Warnaments_ was dark and fast with plenty of tremolo picking and blastbeats, along with the minimal use of synthesisers for effect, The Few Against Many's _Sot_ maintains a fairly mid-paced (although there are blastbeats in a few places), atmospheric and, most importantly, orchestral (sampled) approach over the course of eight heavy songs, which clock in at exactly thirty-six minutes.

Concomitant with the razor-sharp, down-tuned guitars -- that take on the brunt of the melody -- we've also got some really interesting, eerie-sounding synths (they sound almost like a Moog or the effect Dan Swanö used throughout his singular _Moontower_ solo album) that serve as an atmospheric leaven to the music. Every so often, too, you'll get a quick orchestral punch -- sampled violins, bells, choirs, etc. -- accompanying the heavy and determined orientation of the guitar/synth duo. Along with the sampled orchestration, we're also treated to some fairly intricate and lengthy guitar solos courtesy of Patrik Gardberg -- who also plays lead guitar for Torchbearer. Vocally, we're dealing with straight ahead death growls (of the lower variety), and not a trace of clean vocals, save for the scant sampled choral bursts that punctuate the songs every so often.

Two more points of interest about the album: the cover artwork was done by none other than Dan Seagrave. I thought I'd never see another death metal album cover by this man again, so I was really glad to see this. The cover reminds me of something from the early 1990s (like Entombed's _Clandestine_, or Dismember's _Like an Ever Flowing Stream_) which is excellent; and I think it matches the dark atmosphere of the The Few Against Many's music very well. On the lyrical front, six of the eight songs are sung in Swedish, so along with most of their North American audience, I'm at a loss as to what the songs are actually about; however, according to Encylopaedia Metallum, the lyrical themes focus on "death" and "rural Sweden" (now that's unconventional). Interestingly, the lyrics for the two English songs on the album, "Abider" and "One With the Shadow", were written by Jonas Renske of Katatonia / Bloodbath and Mikael Stanne of Dark Tranquillity.

While I think this album is excellent and creative in a number of ways, I'm a little disappointed by the production; it's just too perfect, to the point of almost sounding clinical or sterile. Just listen to the drums and you'll know what I mean: they sound pretty thin and lifeless; almost like a drum-machine, but not quite. This is a pretty minimal criticism, though, as it really doesn't detract from the overall listening experience. Aside from the production, then, this is a great album of diverse, catchy, and heavy Swedish death metal tempered with an orchestral flare. So, if you're a fan of Unmoored, Incapacity, and especially Torchbearer's latest effort, then I'm sure you'll find The Few Against Many's _Sot_ worthy of purchase. This is yet another quality release from the mighty Pulverised Records -- a label to definitely keep an eye on in the future.


(article published 13/11/2009)

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