Melodic death metal is not exactly the genre to watch these days. It seems the heyday of it came and went rather quickly; if you ask some folks on the Internet, that golden age never came. That seems a bit harsh. The basics of the genre seem solid as they channel a lot of what makes metal fun: there’s the contrast between the melodic synths and harsher riffs/vocals, the sense of the epic and the grandiose, and, finally, the feeling of personal accomplishment and strength which can come from the music. However, even if I do think that the genre has merit, I can’t really argue that it’s from the most prolific or high-standard genres out there today.
Luckily, Archaic Decapitator (and a few other bands, like Promethean) are doing good work within the confines of melodic metal. The Apothecary, their third and latest release, is everything melodic death metal should be in 2019. It’s fun, energetic, and doesn’t overstay its welcome, making good use of its more limited run-time. It also has a unique personality which manifests through some of the more interesting grooves on it and the frankly enchanting tone of the synths. “Skyward”, the first proper track on the album, is a great example of this. That synth tone, present from the very start of the track, is not something you hear everyday, perhaps a bit more electronic and less string sample like than you’d usually hear on the album.
Decapitator do a great job of utilizing this tone to shake things up, layering it over the more straightforward riffs on the album to dispel some of their monolithic nature, adding a bit of much dynamism into the mix. Which is not to say that the guitars are boring; listen to that unexpected groove at the end of “Skyward” or the brilliant solo on the next track, “Cruelty of the Host Star”, and you’ll get your evidence. While the guitars on the album certainly “classic” melodic death metal riffs, they’re also willing to step out of the comfort zone and mix things up. That willingness not necessarily to experiment but rather to introduce more variations on the theme (since nothing on this album can be described as experimental) is what makes The Apothecary fun to listen to.
Just in case that sounds like a betrayal of our original point, since I seem to be saying that only the deviations from melodic death metal make it worthwhile, the more “basic” components on The Apothecary are also well executed. In fact, without the commonplace being interesting and well executed, the flair of the other parts wouldn’t work. It’s by using good melodic death metal as a canvas and a foundation for more personal touches that Archaic Decapitator make The Apothercary work. So, if you’re looking for a solid, well made death metal romp, this is the EP for you. Its length invites multiple listens and its more unique passages do more than enough to set the rest of the instrumentation on fire, making the basic elements that are good about melodic death metal shine through.
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Archaic Decapitator’s The Apothecary releases on April 19th. Head on over to the Bandcamp page above to pre-order it.