The Absence

Enemy Unbound

01. Vertigo
02. Erased
03. Deepest Wound
04. Maelstrom
05. Enemy Unbound
06. Solace
07. The Bridge
08. Wartorn
09. Hidden in White
10. Vengeance and Victory
11. Triumph

[Metal Blade | 9/14/10]

Florida quintet The Absence had fallen off my radar for quite a while. In fact, melodic death metal as a whole has been merely an afterthought for a long time. The genre itself is falling to shit with the rise of so many bands doing nothing interesting. While I do enjoy well-executed modern melo-death (Scar Symmetry, Soilwork), I crave the original shit. Sometimes I just need the greatness of classic melo death and The Absence does exactly that.

Enemy Unbound really hits the sweet spot with its root influence. First and foremost is the foreground riffs. The riffs aren’t just there to contrast soaring, bright melodies like modern melo-death. No, dear readers, the riffs here ARE the music. There are tons of monstrous, thrashy riffs à la At the Gates. The leads? Not pussified one bit. The slightly subtle scaling in the verses of “Maelstrom” is an auditory orgasm. Then you tack on Jaime Stewart with his ferocious mid-pitch growls for even more badassery. He won’t win any awards and he surely isn’t the most unique vocalist, but he fits perfectly. However, you can’t just judge a vocalist on how they sound because there’s music behind all the barking and knowing when to shut up is key. Jaime knows when. And it’s even more essential with how many fucking awesome solos and riff passages there are. Hell, there’s even 3 instrumentals! This guy knows his songwriting 101. It’s a shame his lyrical ability is pretty average because his delivery is exceptional. I cannot stop ‘singing’, “Choose your steel. Be the hero or die the fool. Face me on this burning bridge and show me which side you choose!” Last but not least, the drumming here is A+ stuff. You won’t be shitting bricks at some insanely hard polyrhythms, but the commanding upbeat pounding will surely have you moving. Now that I think about it, kneejerk air drumming suddenly became the motif of this album. Nevertheless, Enemy Unbound delivers the goods musically. But does it deliver with its production?

Fuck yeah it does. You oughta know by now if you read my shitty reviews that I can’t stand bad production, because let’s face it: production is part of the album process. Anyway, The Absence’s previous albums all lacked in one department from this perspective. On From Your Grave, the bass was almost nonexistent and the kick drum was super weak while Riders of the Plague felt unpolished. Enemy Unbound, however, got it all right. Nothing is overbearing and nothing is frail. Best of all, it’s not overproduced trite! A complete surprise coming from this day and age when everything needs to have 9000 layers and sound artificial/clean. Enemy Unbound isn’t kvlt raw, but it’s not something anyone should have a problem with.

And now the part where I have to, unfortunately, talk down upon something because no album is perfect. Thankfully, there isn’t a whole lot. There’s some songs that are considerably weaker and when most of them are 5 minutes it can be a bit tedious to listen to. Additionally, it’s all very predictable. What you’re going to get is straight-forward melodic death metal. Same ol’ generic song structure with a bridge and lengthy solo. “Triumph” is the exception with its flashy, uplifting melodies reminiscent of newer MDM and tribal-esque outro after the long silence, but in the end you’re not going to get something unorthodox. That’s not to say it’s bad (as the execution is superb), but creativity is not the backbone.

Overlook the cons and Enemy Unbound is a sign that melo-death still has the spark that captured most of us. It’s amazing thrashy melo-death from America with tons of Scandinavian influence. If At the Gates/old In Flames is stuff you like then this album is something you should mostly definitely check out.

As one user on Last.FM said, “This is what In Flames should sound like in 2010.”

The Absence – Enemy Unbound gets…

4.5

-MK

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