Them - _Unhallowed_
by: Mark Dolson (3.5 out of 5)
This is an interesting demo to say the least. I really had no idea of what to expect when I received it in the mail; and after reading the press-release -- which said that the band play black/heavy metal -- I was really curious as to what _Unhallowed_ sounded like. I'm not sure about you, but whenever I see black and heavy metal in the same phrase, my mind automatically turns to Aura Noir, Cadaver Inc. or Gehenna (SWE). Anyways, after a few spins of the disc, it turns out that Them sound nothing like the aforementioned bands -- not in any way. Actually, as it turns out, this Swedish three piece, hailing from Vänersborg, Sweden, have forged for themselves a fairly original sound, while being only slightly derivative.

At the outset, _Unhallowed_ reminded me of an interesting combination of Immortal-cum-Dissection infused Swedish melodic black metal -- especially the first track, "Blood Revelation". That Them are Swedish means that there will be some tremolo picking -- of course -- here and there over the course of the 23 minute duration of the demo. Save for one exception that features a short burst of ultra-fast blast-beats and double-bass rampages, this is a fairly mid-paced and measured affair. This, to me, is an advantage insofar as it lends more of an imposing, darkened and atmospheric pall to the tracks -- without, of course, taking the focus off the riffs.

There are some pretty decent, catchy and melodic death riffs nestled in most of the songs; of course, since Them label themselves "black / heavy metal", there are some fairly interesting, albeit short-lived, heavy metal / thrash sounding riffs (listen to the beginning of "Demoniac Crescendos" for an example). As such, do I think the band warrants labeling themselves "black / heavy metal"? No, not really. I mean, this isn't any more "heavy metal" than, say, Immortal are; and, as we all know, Immortal export themselves as a plain old black metal band. Bah, labels only carry you so far anyways.

The main vocals on _Unhallowed_sound pretty generic (they reminded me a little of Jon Nödtveidt of Dissection ), though, what with a rather dry, croupous rasp; however, in the second track there are some really nice clean vocals that actually reminded me of Garm's from the might Ulver. The first track, "Blood Revelation", also features some male choirs; and, although used sparsely, they do add a little more drama and atmosphere to some of the track. One thing I particularly like about this demo is the use of clean guitar to accompany some of the riffs -- an approach they seem to use in quite a few tracks. I think it adds a slight melancholic edge to the overall atmosphere; and, in Them's case, it works perfectly. In terms of the overall production, all instruments are crystal clear; although, unfortunately, the use of a drum-machine (which I'll comment more on below), coupled with the razor-sharp guitar tone give this demo somewhat of a lifeless, clinical feel -- which, unfortunately, always ends up being a little bit of a turn off to me.

Anyway, the two things that really turn me off of this effort, unfortunately, are 1) the use of programmed drums; and 2) the bizarre Hollenthon-style (a band, which, quite sadly, I do not like) symphonic tangent the band indulge in on the third track, "Ave Satana". I'll address the latter first, then move on to the former. I'm not sure about you, but for the most part I just don't like Therion / Hollenthon-type bombastic female / male choirs in metal, especially when they're accompanied by a sampled brass section. I just find it annoying for some reason. And, in the case of the _Unhallowed_ demo, the aforesaid track just sounds pretty incongruous compared to the rest -- well, to me, anyway.

The particular programme used on this demo makes the drums and cymbals sound convincing enough; however, once the short-lived blast-beats commence, you know instantly that the timing is way too precise to be human. What may be of interest to some, though, is that the band have recruited Micke Backelin of Lord Belial fame to take over the drumming duties. For anti-programmed drum fiends like myself, this should make Them's future releases a little more dynamic and, hopefully, less clinical sounding.

Drawing this review to a close, I think Them definitely show some promise here. As mentioned above, I believe it's their particular brand of imposing and dark atmosphere that sets them aside from other, perhaps more generic-sounding Swedish bands. If you find this approach to black metal interesting, then make sure to pay Them's MySpace page a visit.


(article published 26/2/2011)

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