In recent years, there’s been a resurgence of sorts in traditional, melodic, soaring heavy metal, the likes of which harken back to the glory days of Mercyful Fate and Ghost, which goes to show that metalheads now and then still have a soft spot for something you can sing along with. And yet, the ugliest, most punishing forms of metal continue to strive, with death metal being blackened, black metal being deathened, and sludge metal continuing to dig deeper toward finding the brown note. This, in itself, is a kind of status quo for metal — always pushing forward in pursuit of sounds most vile and menacing. But when it’s done in a way that also courts melody or anthemic climax, it becomes something even more intriguing altogether.
Canada by-way-of Bangladesh band Weapon are a case in point of the positive effects of bolstering death metal with a stronger, more melodic songwriting style. Embers and Revelations, the band’s first for Relapse, is not a gentle beast by any means, its mixture of raw riffs, blast beat breakdowns and tense climaxes converging to form a thoroughly intense blend throughout. But the band’s melodic, eerie sensibility is something that sets them apart, and as such, the tradeoff between brutal, base sounds and more transcendent feats of soaring density is ultimately what makes the album a consistently engaging listen. The ominous lurch of “The First Witness of the Morning Star” sets a vicious and vile tone for the album, but it’s only the beginning of the parade of malevolence to come, from the climactic rise of “Vanguard of the Morning Star” to the push and pull between catchiness and speed-freak technicality on “Liber Lilith.”
While Embers and Revelations is, in spite of its name, by no means revelatory, it’s a continually interesting one, and finds a satisfying balance between accessibility and antagonism. Deep within Vetis Monarch’s jumbled growls are invocations of depravity and malice that stand out even among some of today’s biggest misanthropes in metal. Interesting, then, that they’re delivered in a compelling, and frequently melodic package. Embers and Revelations is fairly unlikely to convert anyone who hasn’t done at least a little extreme metal prepwork, but it’s an awesome next step for those accustomed to a little more venom and ire.
Inquisition – Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm
Disma – Towards the Megalith
Absu – Absu
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.