Shrapnel Storm - _At Dawn_
by: St. John Satansson (3 out of 5)
This is the third demo from Finnish military death metallers Shrapnel Storm, who stood out to me from Mnt. Demopile because of their name; they've got a two week binge on "Call of Duty" and bloody war movies to thank for that.

This third demo, _At Dawn_, looks quite basic in presentation. A red and black horizon shot of a sun just rising with a white, old-school metal logo rending the top corner. It's cheap, but it has charm and a little menace. There is too much emphasis on top dollar graphic designs with no soul these days anyway (Napalm Records, I am looking at you).

Flak-jacket on, time to endure the first wave. It is quite a straightforward and yet more accessible sound than I was expecting. Mixed in with the well-worn death metal 101 riffs there's a Chimaira-esque groove here. It has a weighty sound with clear, slightly emaciated guitars supported by a warm and commanding bass. The lead tones are workable sounds, and there are some Dimebaggy dive bombs in places. The guitars are not as competently shreddy as they might be, but the desired effects are achieved and the solos serve an atmospheric purpose in the songs. The vocals are rather unpleasant, varying in pitch from slimy mid-range to low, moody gurgles. All the heavier death metal aspects are coming from this area. The drums snap and bite, but are not as densely punchy as could be expected. The sound production feels quite open and sparse and yet murky and sinister, like a ruined battlefield full of shattered tank shells.

Some of Shrapnel Storm's riffs are compelling, but others have a basic and fledgling feel to them; the kind of riffs you might come up with in your late teens when you obsessively join your first proper band. There is an amateur feel to some of the playing and arrangements, the band aren't quite ration-book tight yet. There is no sense of brutal intensity to this and you can feel that the band are rocking out rather than going seven shades of apeshit. That's not to say they aren't good fun; _At Dawn_ has put a grin on my face. I'm am not blown away by the first two tracks, but I am engaged by their straight up and simple metal assault. Both had their better moments, and some enjoyable riffs. The last track, "Warfiends", is the standout, as it sounds more original with its more immediate vocal patterns. Although it is a little comical because it does come across as growled gibberish, it is a bit reminiscent of Cannibal Corpse's "Stripped, Raped and Strangled" in its stop-start hook before it settles down into a mid-paced and menacing second half.

Shrapnel Storm have spirit, and I enjoyed what they have done on _At Dawn_. It's not world beating and it is rather tried and tested in style, but still worth a listen. An experience rather like putting down "Halo Reach" for a bit and firing up "Doom 2" to point-click chainsaw some brown pixeled demons.


(article published 26/6/2011)

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