Friday 17 March 2023

The Fallen Prophets - Perpetual Damnation (2023)

Country: South Africa
Style: Melodic Death Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 10 Mar 2023
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Much of what I review nowadays is from Europe, given that there's far more invention in play over there than in North America at the moment, but I try to keep my eyes focused on the globe. There is a lot of amazing music coming out of South America right now and some from Asia too, even if it seems to be underperforming when compared to population. Oceania is a gift that keeps on giving and that leaves Africa, which I'd love to cover more often, if only the continent produced more in a rock and metal vein. Much of what I do see is from South Africa and the Fallen Prophets are a fresh name to me, hailing from Cape Town.

They seem to like their metalcore in South Africa and there's an element of that here, but mostly I hear death metal, more melodic than brutal and often technical too. There are two vocalists, with Pieter Pieterse the lead. He delivers a deep death growl in relatively traditional fashion, with lots of relish, if not as much intonation and variety as I'd like. Occasionally, Francois van der Merwe has something to do behind him and, if I'm identifying him correctly, his contributions are more in the black metal vein, higher and more of a shriek than a growl. He doesn't get the spotlight often, but there are moments in the closer, Rotten from the Bone.

The music follows their lead, with tone particularly important and melody behind it. If I'm reading correctly, there are three guitarists in play, which explains why the sound is so dense. Daniel Louw covers lead duties and the two vocalists add rhythm. They chug well and they speed up well too, if not particularly far. There's some thrash here, especially on the second half, but they rarely think about going full tilt and the fastest aspect is often Dylan Haupt's drums. Given van der Marwe's vocals and Haupt's drums, a black metal influence is clear, even if it's never particularly overt, just sitting underneath everything else winking at us.

The Fallen Prophets have been around since 2011 and this is their third album, with a couple of EPs in between. As such, it's not surprising that the band are tight, even if two of the musicians joined after COVID and a third not long before it. They feel seasoned and they fall into grooves easily. The catch to that is that I wanted more from them than just falling into grooves. There are moments in which they provide something extra, like the wonderful intro to album opener Let the Weak Suffer and a brief moment for the bass to take the spotlight in Fatal Invocation. These things elevate the music and they do them well, so I wonder why they don't do them more often.

Instead of evolving their sound to provide something different from other death metal bands, I'm hearing far more focus on simply doing what they do very well indeed. It's like they care more that an audience leaves a gig thinking that they're better than anyone else on the bill than different in any way. I'm all for bands trying to being the best they can be, but death metal is a crowded genre and there needs to be something more to distinguish one band from a scene. Maybe this band are more technical than anyone else in Cape Town and damn they're tight, but there's not a lot that's going to make them stand out against other tight technical death metal bands on the internet.

And so, this has to be a recommended album because it's good stuff, but it's going to play best to a strict audience of death metal connoisseurs. Listeners with broader tastes would dig the solos on Asphyxiation Chamber or how well they shift from a slow chug on As the Dead Swarm to what may be the fastest pace on the album, but these are second half songs and they may not get that far if they're not die hard death metal fans. I like the second half more than the first, not just those two songs but also Fatal Invocation after them. This is the Fallen Prophets at their thrashiest and that appeals to me.

They're a good band and this is a good album, but I feel that there's a better one in them yet. This is reliable good rather than inventive good. The hints of invention tell me that they could knock it out of the park with their fourth album, but they'll need to figure out what to add to their sound to take them to the next level.

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