Ctulu – Sarkomand

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Cleverness — glib intelligence focused on past good results manipulating an existing system — serves as the enemy to innovation. Balancing that is the notion that what is older is usually better because, human conditions having never changed, that which serves well once will continue to do so until the situation changes (which usually means it is simply decaying and unstable). Ctulu takes us back to 1997 and combines Swedish melodic death metal, Greek black metal and the classic Iron Maiden style of melodic heavy metal for a satisfying listen that is nonetheless non-essential. In this case, “non-essential” means that you can go listen to the original albums for a more complete (less clever) view of the genre, but that Ctulu will be fun for weekend listening and the local or regional metal scene.

Now, the above seems strikingly unfair. After all, Ctulu is a good band, and the fact that they repeat trills and melodic progressions from sources as diverse as later Sacramentum, Necrophobic, Unanimated, Mayhem, Rotting Christ and Piece of Time seems irrelevant to their quality as a band; that is very much true. But what is being played here is not so much the instrument as the genre and the expectation of fans based on those older works, so what occurs is ultimately clever instead of innovative. This band has developed its own voice, but it is a voice that converses only in the context of these past acts. Without them, this band would appear strikingly different but also starkly empty. These well put together songs reflect not an interest in pushing an envelope but in gratifying a need that already exists, which is why by the sixth track the sensation of listening itself has become repetitive more than the music itself. We know what it conveys; it has found different ways of doing roughly the same thing and while most of us will grudgingly admit to adoring the melodic metal sound, it works best in service to a grand or epic vision as in the underrated later Sacramentum speed metal hybrid albums which Sarkomand frequently resembles. Here we have a local band holding the horns and beer stein high, keeping up the tradition, but this is the worst of conservative thinking in that it is creating this tradition from outward-in, not from some motivation within toward an end product, and as a result it trivializes what is here and what was there.

Expect flowing melodic passages which elevate the fill to central position so that riffs may reverse direction through the scale and achieve a sense of rapid motion. Mate that with highly proficient drumming that generally stays out of the focus but frames it expertly, mid-level death metal vocals and heavy metal choruses and you have the basic idea. While most of the riffing is death metal derived and would fit on a Sentenced or Dissection album, much of the underlying song motion more resembles black metal in its choice of atmosphere followed by saturation of that atmosphere and an angsty breakout. Like many bands influenced by this style, Ctulu know how to write a chorus that is both pleasing to the ear and yet carefully hides its addictive tendencies over just enough detachment to make it plausible instead of cloying. At this, Ctulu best the competition and it explains why they have risen above the utter horde of melodic retro death metal bands to be in the position they are in also. And yet, Sarkomand remains an album that is fun to listen to but when it departs, nothing feels missing.

Hippies fail at metal because metal hates hippies

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Hippies can’t play metal. Black Sabbath kicked off the metal movement because they wanted to make dark rock in contrast to the “peace, love and happiness” movement that had swept rock music into conformity. In this they joined other acts, like The Doors and Jethro Tull, who warned that good intentions would not save the world.

Since the 1990s, hippies are no longer the opposition to our evil conservative overlords… hippies are the Establishment, and they have become just as conservative and evil as anything before, except that now that have a mantle of moral superiority to use as a weapon like grandmothers use guilt. Not only have the hippies aged into their 60s, but they have adopted the view that they are right and anyone who deviates must be quashed. So much for the summer of love.

For that reason it’s natural that much as metal fought the suburban mom censors and Christian fundamentalists back in the 1980s, from the 1990s onward it has been fighting hippie fundamentalists who believe that peace, love, inclusiveness, happiness and political correctness are the only topics one can sing about, and if not, one is the enemy. This follows the path other ideological fanatics took, as in the Soviet Union, where their revolution for equality ended in mass executions.

This is a turf war. Hippies have wanted to take over metal since we challenged them (and their insipid rock) in the 1960s. They took over hardcore in the 1980s and songs went from rants about the imminent decline of our society to cute ditties about how the singer is outraged that people are not more accepting of everyone and everything. They transferred all that boring late hardcore into metal and threw some metal and jazz riffs on the top and called it a new genre, “modern metal.” The problem with it is that it is boring. Every single band of this type is random because the message it endorses is the anti-message: stand for nothing except going along with the hippies. This means writing transparent songs about SJW-topics that never really go anywhere since they all have the same meaning, “join the revolution!”

If you listen to enough modern metal, you will notice a pattern emerges. On the surface, this music is diverse and exciting. Jazz riffs, metal riffs, punk riffs and indie rock tropes compete for surface space. But then if you look at the heart of it, these songs really do not have much going for them. There is no melody or theme uniting them, just a loop of verse-chorus to which the band tacks on the randomness. This is because these are not songs about anything but are new and not very exciting ways of saying the exact same thing over and over again. Like a loudspeaker blaring in Moscow square, SJW-metal repeats the same propaganda in lockstep in hopes of reducing your brain to sludge so you go along with it. There is a reason it is all boring, and it relates to the purpose behind the music. Just like pop is annoying because its only purpose is to be catchy and vapid, SJW-metal is boring because its only purpose is to bleat propaganda while trying to be “unique” by making new surface variations of the same tired 1960s-1980s rock.

When hippies invaded rock, they destroyed it. When they invaded punk, they neutered it. If they successfully invade heavy metal, they will turn the last comfort of the rebellious soul into the dogma of the boring 1960s revolutionary left. SJWs are zombies who preach the same stuff that baby boomers were wailing on about in the 1960s, forgetting that all that stuff got debunked when the USSR fell in ruins and we got to see the SJW paradise: everyone was equal, and anyone who disagreed got shot, so no one did much of anything and it all fell apart. Hippies would bring us to the same end. They are essentially apologists for the decay of our society. Where metalheads want to look at reality and come up with solutions, hippies want us to space out with happy feelings and ignore the fact that we are in free fall as a society and soon to bottom out. This is why industry and government eventually embraced hippies: they do not threaten the power structure. Metal does, and that is why today’s hippies are trying to invade it, and why we must refute, resist and reject them.

#metalgate goes mainstream

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2014 will be remembered as the year when people woke up to how our minds are controlled by media. In every area of life, ideological fanatics have taken over and tried to gain control. In metal, #metalgate pushed back against these people not so much from outright disagreement with their intent but absolute hatred of their method — control through guilt — which reminds us of organized religion, high school disciplinarians, and other authoritarian types.

#metalgate has not gone away. First, Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) denied that it was happening. Then they blamed it on #gamergate. Then they claimed #metalgate had failed. In the process, however, #metalgate and #gamergate have been absorbed by the larger culture around us as people push back against the people who are getting a free ride in media, academia and entertainment by having the “right” opinions, and using guilt to force everyone to hire them and treat them as important. When in fact, most of them are semi-competent as their actions during #metalgate show.

Our own editor was kicked off a mailing list for having the wrong opinions. His satirical article which pointed out that punishments for rape are disproportionate given the nature of most “rapes” as post-sex regret, in the hands of SJWs, became treated like an actual rape. Academics and journalists on the list talked about how his words made them “afraid.” Then they kicked him off and closed their mailing list so outsiders cannot observe what goes on there. By doing so, they have made it clear that only SJWs are welcome. This reminds me of the JournoList scandal, in which media elites were using a mailing list to agree on how they would shape public opinion. Whether or not you agree with the opinions of the journalists in question, these are sleazy tactics that have more in common with totalitarian propaganda machines than a free society.

The conflict is spreading into the public sphere from several angles. #metalgate supporter and heavy metal frontman David Draiman (Disturbed) recently pushed back against the media in defense of his ancestral homeland, Israel:

“The mainstream media is setting the stage for a new Holocaust. They are the reason that this anti-Semitic fervor has been perpetuated over the entire globe,” said Draiman, who is the son of Israelis and the grandson of Holocaust survivors.

“It’s interesting how the media loved the state of Israel and loved our story when we were the underdog, and now that we’re no longer the underdog, now that we have the ability and the military might and the intestinal fortitude to always defend ourselves and defend our people and defend our right to exist, they damn us for that and they condemn us for that,” the heavy metal frontman added.

As Sam Dunn’s Global Metal illustrated, one aspect of metal is that it attaches very well to national cultures and helps people see national pride in a different way. In Israel, this means bands like Salem, Kever and Melechesh who do not shy away from the conflict in their homeland. Instead of taking an SJW-style viewpoint that there is a “right side of history” and claiming that anyone who disagrees is a racist (or sexist, homophobe, etc.), these bands explored the conflict to see what was actually driving people toward aggression. This is the metal way: we see conflict as growth, war as necessary, and we look underneath the surface illusion of society to see what is actually there. If you listen to society, you get social statements, media talking heads and neat tidy categories in politics. If you think like a metalhead, you look at the reasons for the conflict much like a scientist examines events in nature. You do not moralize, you explain.

Writing in The Federalist, Robert Tracinski discovers the high stakes of the current struggle between SJWs and the rest of us, and gives #metalgate a mention as well:

But this year, I discovered that while I might not be interested in the culture war, the culture war is interested in me. It’s interested in all of us.

This is the year when we were served notice that we won’t be allowed to stand on the sidelines, because we will not be allowed to think differently from the left.

Although The Federalist is a bit too right-wing for me, others have noticed from the other side of the spectrum. Over at Medium, Dave Pell writes about how social networking has created a culture in which we crucify people for saying things that offend others:

I worry that these new realities will lead us down path towards self-censorship. Sharing was fun at first. But now we can see the potential costs. And the risks associated with broadcasting our thoughts just might be enough to turn the era of open digital communication into the age of shut the fuck up.

Over at Spiked, editor Brendan O’Neill writes about how paranoia of this kind of public shaming and destruction is causing people to self-censor themselves, and how this makes us very much like the people who see as evil totalitarians.

Self-censorship is the worst form of censorship, for it encourages people to internalise illiberalism. It plants a secret censor in every boardroom and newsroom and gallery and even in people’s minds — an invisible tut-tutter constantly warning us ‘don’t say that’ and ‘don’t show that’ because, in the words of Index on Censorship, there’s ‘the possibility of a hostile response’. It nurtures risk-aversion, even moral cowardice, and it discourages people from taking great leaps of the mind or pushing culture in a new and provocative direction. It stultifies the soul. It hampers the human spirit itself. And worst of all, it inflames the intolerant: the more people self-censor, the more the censorious will demand it, whether it’s Oxford students, Guardian feminists, or foreign tyrants. If Guardians of Peace really is North Korea, then that shows that the West has become so allergic to liberty that even that tyrannical hermit state is taking lessons from us, borrowing from our book of using online intimidation to make offensive speakers apologise and retract.

Not only that, from a somewhat disturbing news article earlier today, you can see the rise of censorship in action in this story of a teenager who posted a (perhaps 4chan-ish) joke about a garbage truck accident.

The 19-year-old, believed to be Ross Loraine, from Sunderland, handed himself in to police yesterday evening after a number of complaints were made about the tweet.

He is alleged to have written: “So a bin lorry has crashed into 100 people in Glasgow eh, probably the most trash its ever picked up in one day that.”

Northumbria Police said he was arrested on suspicion of making a malicious communication and had been bailed while they made further inquiries into the incident.

I don’t want to defend this joke. I want to defend his ability to make this joke and for me to ignore it, much like I ignore misogyny in Cannibal Corpse lyrics and comically amateurish socialist propaganda in Napalm Death lyrics. I see those two lyrical missteps as coming from the same place, which is a desire to play with powerful and offensive symbols. Metal would scream “Fire!” in a crowded theater, blaspheme in church, eat cake in the bathroom and cross-dress at football games. It’s just what we do. We are part trolls and part people who do not trust society and its tendency to create a veneer of simple answers that conceal what is actually going on, which in our case is a very sick society possible on the verge of collapse.

Frenzied grand constructions, wars and great rituals are among the common responses of ancient leaders to crises. These demonstrate powerful responses by the leaders (enhancing their threatened hold on power), but almost never really address the problems themselves. A cynic might characterize the giant U.S. stimulus bill of 2009 as such an effort.

Leaders may recognize that they are not addressing the real problems, but they rationalize their actions with the argument that they must first politically survive in order to later address the hard problems and sacrifices. Of course, they usually don’t ever actually get around to addressing the fundamental problems later, either because they don’t make it through the initial crisis or because, even later, they are not willing to risk sacrificing their own position (or “career”) with needed measures that usually require tough sacrifices by the population.

We live in troubled times. SJWs insist that they are revolutionaries who are bringing us some kind of new enlightenment but in actuality they are repeating to us the same ideas from the 1960s that our parents and grandparents thought were new and fresh. Way to not think outside of the box, guys. While SJWs insist they are rebels against the Establishment, the truth is that they are the establishment. Government regulations and laws have created situations where offending someone, even if that offense is not sensible, can result the outsider being fired. SJWs use this threat passive-aggressively to force others out of the way so SJWs can promote their own brand of hipster “metal,” take positions in media and academia, and generally get their own way through means other than competence. This is similar to accusations in #gamergate, where female games journalists with no qualifications were getting promoted at a rate that correlated highly with their sexual conquests in the media in-group that included their employers. In “Let’s have a national conversation about race — so we can figure out whom to fire”, Eugene Volokh writes in the Washington Post:

Even without the risk of litigation, many people have long been cautious about talking about matters that their listeners might feel strongly about a deep and personal level — race, religion, politics, sexuality, and more. Nonetheless, it seems to me that the risk of vast liability has been an important factor in dramatically increasing the cost of expressing one’s candid views about race (especially at work), and in deterring people from expressing those views.

That’s what #metalgate is about. Make a joke about a garbage truck crash, or say anything about race that deviates from the official Title VII opinions set out by American laws and courts, and you are the bad guy and you will be fired. But this can be used as a weapon. An SJW comes along and says, “Promote me or I’ll claim you said something sexist, racist or homophobic.” Or they find some way to construe a relatively innocent statement as such. Or maybe you make a joke about a garbage truck. They now control you because you are indebted to them for not destroying your career, so you have to hire them. They then maneuver others like them on staff. If you wonder why journalists and academics write about things that have seemingly no relation to everyday life, this is why. You are looking at a jobs program based on government anti-discrimination law abused by a small group of hipsters who want to dominate the discussion and exclude anyone who does not agree — this is different than disagreeing — with them.

Metal and gaming are not alone. Other areas of life have been affected by these people as well, since being able to get yourself hired or promoted because of guilt makes it easy to succeed. But in 2014, people started pushing back. Metal contributed an important part of the conversation with #metalgate, and as this pushback gains momentum we will likely see more from that quarter.

Nachtmystium – The World We Left Behind

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When you say you like black metal, people will speak band names to you and it takes the same amount of time to figure out that one is horrible as it does for them to suggest ten more. It is a literal infinite stream that is mostly worthless but there is always the elusive possibility that one might not be terrible and sometimes, very rarely, a great one exists among the waste. Nachtmystium is not that rare greatness.

Other than the vocals, utterly nothing on this record suggests in any way that it is related to black metal. For the most part, this is an Iron Maiden clone album that, if it were aesthetically decked-out like the original, would be immediately filed with the B-rated bands on the far shelf. It specializes in soft rhythms that trudge to a familiar cadence and have catchy melodic hooks overlaid, but its real power is its ability to set up a chorus with verse repetition. The primary instrument is the voice, which through varying texture enables it to imbue the verses with emotion. And if you like 1970s overblown lead guitar soloing that keeps going on and recapitulates the dominant vocal theme in five different ways, you are in for a treat.

The World We Left Behind is newsworthy only in that it is not newsworthy yet was seemingly in the news for a long time. Musically it falls into the mid-1970s with some updated technique but nothing else, and artistically it appeals to people who want droning boring music to sit through on their days off while they think about what victims of the world they are, and how this justifies buying another cherry tart at the bakery and eating it with wine while watching Notting Hill. It is not incompetent like early USBM missteps but in its competence there is an emptiness driven by an attempt to attention whore certain “deep” emotions it identified in black metal. As a result, this serves as a fitting epitaph for a once-worthy genre now swallowed up by mass taste, and nothing else.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTIpLBnkPjU

Martyrdöd – Elddop

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Coming from the fusion of d-beat crust, hard rock and melodic heavy metal, Martyrdöd demonstrate a greater ability to write songs than your average underground band, both through musical knowledge and the instinct to know how to complete a song convincingly. The problem that appears out of the chaos is that these are basically all the same song since the band has such a broad approach that making it successful requires narrowing the eventual product.

Songs start over the high-speed Disfear-style modified d-beat that is played more rigidly than its original UK inspiration and so fosters a healthy environment for driving music, which Elddop offers in mixed metal and bluesy hard rock riffs for verses and At the Gates style melodic twists and turns for choruses. Over this the vocalist approximates a decent black metal vocal with varied emphasis except at the end of each phrase where he reverts to hardcore phrasing to emphasize the rhythmic hook. It is not unpleasant to listen to, and thanks to the superior musical abilities of these players is in fact a bit of fun, but it lacks anything to make a listener pick this album up again. Martyrdöd does not nail a certain feeling, a moment, an experience or an idea but rather makes sonic wallpaper of the intersection of ideas in a single experience of vague resistance but basically a desire for some hard rock riffs in a new form.

Naturally this opinion will be controversial because it is hard to argue with the better musical knowledge on this album. But in art, as in music, technical knowledge is a means to an end, and when it becomes an end in itself, it eclipses the purpose of art which is to communicate a profound realization in an aesthetically pleasing way. Elddop nails aesthetically pleasing, but by doing so in the empty aggregate intersection of many styles, creates merely a high-tech form of elevator music with crust and metal flavoring.

Dråpsnatt – Hymner till undergången

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Hymner till undergången just misses being the black metal revivalist album that most fans hope for. Combining the low-fi approach of Ulver with the aesthetics of Windir, Dråpsnatt crafts black metal in the style we might have expected 1996-1998 from a band taking influences from the third wave of bands who broke from the past musically but not aesthetically. As a result, much of this album focuses on open harmonies over which keyboards and guitars interplay to create a sense of a busy but peaceful forest scene.

Where this album falls short — without considering whether this style is great or not — is that many of these phrases are too symmetrical or otherwise evident to provide for enduring listening. In addition, much like Ulver or later Enslaved, this band wants to become Pink Floyd, not Darkthrone or Mayhem. What emerges instead are very spacy jams where extremely obvious simple melodic death metal riffs introduce longer space-rock songs based around three notes, which means that the band repeats itself to achieve atmosphere and then goes crazy with a solo or extended bridge. As the album goes on, it becomes more atmospheric, which is a cool deepening effect sort of like the divergence from society in Journey to the End of the Night. The heavy use of keyboards allows some distraction from the pure drone but this often forces the keyboards into the role of lead instrument for extended passages, which quickly begins to approximate the kind of music they play near fountains in malls.

Much of Hymner till undergången gratifies the old-school metalhead, if that person can filter out the exuberant and sentimental clean vocals, the extended open-strum mood pieces, and the symmetrical paint-by-numbers riffing. Clearly this album gets closer on an aesthetic level than almost anything else recently, in part by understanding how to pace vocals and guitars at offset to avoid the modern metal sound and develop depth. It possesses a familiar texture and rhythm, develops about at the pace a black metal fan would expect, and delivers roughly the right moods. It is unlikely to sustain repeated listens in the way the classics of this genre did, and the transition to atmospheric rock halfway through makes it an unpleasant reminder of the fate of all good, hard and valid music in a world that seeks flattery for the consumer instead.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XTS_aIlZSQ

Angist – Circle of Suffering

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In theory, Angist play death metal, but in practice it sounds like what would happen if you took a basic 80s glam metal song and dressed it up in brutally distorted power chords and repetitive high-speed rhythms. The essence of this band is droning, insistent rhythms mated to riffs with melodic undertones that spend most of their motion in accidental notes around the basics of the chord progression.

The repetition alone could crush the skull of a listener, but that in itself is not “heavy,” only boring combined with catchy. The result is a feeling of obligation in churning through the repetitive structure and riff styles. The vocals insist on a circular pattern as well which creates a monolithic grinding aura which presents itself well, but then in invariant intransigence proceeds to normalize itself as a backdrone. Fortunately little frippery interrupts the otherwise solid stream of riff but in the end, this acts more like Chinese water torture than death metal: catchy, repetitive, cyclic grinding wears down resistance and then introduces a kind of tedium in which the mind perks up for any variation, only to lose sight of it as it gives way to more of the same.

Were this album to vary its approach to tempo and more selectively use its melody, it might achieve the kind of internal contrast that creates anticipation and release. Instead, it marches onward like the doomed traversing dystopia on their way to some utterly pointless activity. For that feeling, you could just listen to an air conditioner or rough idling engine and get the same effect.

Orcultus – Orcultus

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Orcultus returns to the days before black metal when NWOBHM band Venom created short, catchy songs but Orcultus runs this approach through a Norsecore filter and adds post-metal riffing for atmosphere. The result is both eminently listenable and unendurable because its simplistic approach misses everything that made the Norse strong, adds too much adornment to achieve the simple pleasures of Venom, and will never be accepted by post-metal because it is not trendy enough.

Songs tend to launch relatively simply in the Norsecore droning riff style, redouble that with catchy choruses, then fade out with either more Norsecore or the patented drunken people waving in the breeze as a sad note sounds and then falls style of post-metal. They then repeat this formula with different Norse riffs matched to opposite corresponding Venom-style rhythms and a slight variant on the post-metal drone. This creates an effect of transitioning through the life cycle of black metal in a single song, which brings up miserable reminders and ends in the nowhere man gentrified urban neighborhood entropy that post-metal uses to make hipsters of us all.

Worse than obliterating the past by ignoring it is to destroy it by adulterating it, and then to let the adulterated hybrid take the place of the original. Yet this is what happens in most cases. Orcultus represents this attempt in the black metal genre, mixing several generations of heavy metal and hybrids into an indecisive and contentless paradigm that produces a sensation of fatigue, ambiguity and confusion, but not the dark and rich melancholic emotions of black metal. As a result, despite having much of the old school in it, this one goes on the black ‘n roll heap and gets consigned to the bit bucket.

The King is Blind – The Deficiencies of Man

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Of all the modern metal tendencies that can be completely annoying, the insistence of vocals leading the piece takes the cake. Like rap, the music takes a backseat to whatever is being shouted at you like political slogans or advertising offers. Here the band writes a grind-death hybrid distilled to high-energy riffs under a slowly-enunciated cadence of vocals that makes for utter tedium. The problem is that the band is equipped to write two-riff songs and when they go beyond this they sense they are out of their depth and offer instead melodic metal fills.

Like all metalcore, which is as good a container as you will find for “modern metal” which follows hardcore songwriting with metal riffs, The King is Blind comes across as disorganized because it is in metal terms. In rock terms it is highly organized, with verses matching choruses in key and rhythm. The problem is that the riffs are unrelated so they serve the same role as a slow double-strummed open C in a Bruce Springsteen tune: they keep background harmony to the vocals, which are the real focus here. Except these vocals are mostly monotone. Throwing in simplified Slayer riffs just creates a circus atmosphere, as does the use of other metal technique to try to give momentum to this otherwise pointless music.

Black Anvil – Triumvirate

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Every now and then as you sort through the massive stacks — about 3-5 per day on average — of albums submitted to this site, you find an honest-to-goodness tragedy. There you sigh and think, this could have been quite good, with a few relatively minor adjustments as seen from a decade away. Those adjustments would look major to someone in the year of the album release because they would involve violating what was en vogue in the moment, but aspire instead to songwriting that withstands the years.

Black Anvil, despite the somewhat ridiculous name, write quality death/doom metal in a melodic style that might be described as Dissection attempting to be Goatwhore. It keeps energy high with catchy riffs that vary within verses but keep choruses in pure infectious pop energy. At its heart, Black Anvil thinks like a doom metal band but writes uptempo melodic riffs instead because it aims for an audience with a shorter temporal span. Most of these riffs fit within well-recognized archetypes but are distinct enough not to evoke a specific band. Songs build around simple melodic progressions, under unfortunate vocals which blurt in the modern style but and while riffs do not create a sense of ongoing transfer of knowledge through changing atmosphere through experience, they fit into sensible songs which create a mood and deepen it before leaving it in a different state. Throughout it we get the sense of a rock band writing an album with the late-grindcore surge energy of Napalm Death Fear, Emptiness, Despair and translated into quasi-death metal riffing.

Had someone reached back from 2019 to this band, they would have encouraged them to drop the contemporary vocals and name, and would have encouraged greater variation in tempo and perhaps more aggressive riffs before leading into the Iron Maiden styled sweetness. As the album goes on, the band runs out of ideas and begins to rely more on crowd-pleasing technique than songwriting. Like Goatwhore, this is mostly catchy pop and less content, but here the frequency shifts more toward 80-20. A great album could have emerged from Triumvirate but what stands now is merely a good album which will be forgotten because it fades into the background of now-dead trends and never allowed itself to fully come to a point.