Tuesday 16 July 2019

Razorblades Terror - Return of the Crown (2019)

Country: Indonesia
Style: Technical Death Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 2 Jul 2019
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I have a love/hate relationship with the brutal end of death metal, finding that a lot of it finds an interesting tone but does little more than drag it out for however many tracks are on any particular album or even a career. It might sound great on a first listen but it gets old really quickly for me, unlike melodic death metal which can change up from track to track if need be and add in all sorts of textures as it does so.

The closest I've got of late to brutal death metal that I really like is an Indonesian band by the name of Razorblades Terror, who play technical death metal. What that means is that they play with a brutal back end that's fast and downtuned but with a front end that's dominated by shredding guitarwork. The vocals are deep and growly, but are surprisingly versatile.

Most of this album is done at great speed. Fafa sets a relentless pace on the drums for Borky's bass to track. Whenever Tom pauses his growls, Dwy's fingers go dancing and we have frantic melody over frantic backing. On its own, that's pretty cool and I dig the sound.

But that isn't all that Razorblades Terror do and it's the rest that makes them special. For one thing, even though they're more brutal than melodic in tone, they construct their songs like melodeath bands. They introduce some variety on the opener, Binary of Gold, which follows a minute of blitzkrieg with a spoken word section and ends with a sort of choral crescendo that I presume is really done with keyboards.

Suckcial Media is what caught my attention. It's frantic, like most of this band's songs, but it gets much more varied than I expected. There are parts in the middle that transform into heavy power metal, with a slower approach, melodic riffing and more of that choral thing. And, as always, whatever goes on with the band, as fast and deep and brutal as they get, you can be sure that the guitarist is noodling along at high speed on his fretboard.

Dwy does this so much that there are points where he's still going as one song shuts down on him, so that he has to immediately carry on on the next one from where he left off. If there wasn't a pause between Suckcial Media and Racism Culture, I'd have thought they were the same song. This approach could easily have led to the album becoming one long repetitive track, but little touches of variety elevate the material.

The onslaught pauses in Racism Culture, for instance, for a lovely creeping bass run, something that happens in Death Prophercy too, among other points. Another is during a staccato section in Corps of Robot that highlights how capable each band member is, including whoever's handling the keyboards. If we doubted that there were keyboards, they get more obvious on Particle of Throne because there's clearly a piano in play and handled classically too. That returns for Death Prophercy and especially for Outro the Crown, which is an instrumental outro.

I enjoyed Return of the Crown a lot, finding that it energised me with its speed and brutality but kept my attention with its guitarwork and variety. It's probably important that Tom's voice didn't annoy me the way that a lot of brutal death metal vocalists do. He doesn't do anything new or ambitious, but he mixes things up a little by setting the tempo as effectively as the drummer.

The most obvious downside, for those who don't find this style repetitive, is the fact that the band's command of the English language, in which they sing, isn't particularly great. Of course, I have the same problem here in Phoenix, because most people can't conjure up coherent sentences any more, but I'm not sure what I'm supposed to make of song titles like Particle of Throne, Binary of Gold or Corps of Robot. What's a Saliva Dealer and what's Candle Philosophy? I'm not sure that these things mean what they think they mean.

It really doesn't matter much, because Tom's vocals are not designed to be particularly intelligible, so confusedly looking over the track listing is about as problematic as it gets. No, that's not how Death Prophercy should be spelled. The catch is that, when Tom does appear to get intelligible, it doesn't work. The chorus on Suckcial Media sounds very much like "Everyone is daughter". I presume it isn't.

But hey, if that's all I can raise as a negative here, you know this is an impressive album! It's well written, well produced and well performed and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

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