The often maligned modern melodic death metal genre is chock full of pretenders to the throne. Numbers have tried to emulate the sound and success of the kings but have fallen to the side of the road, bloody, battered and (somehow) bullishly ready to have another stab. This makes for an abundance of records that can be thrown into the bargain bin instead of stuck up on “albums to listen to before you die” lists. Enter Karybdis, a London five piece sharpening the tools of their trade with their sophomore record Samsara. Do they have the chops and the gall to take on the melodeath monarchy? Not quite, I’m afraid.
There is just as much to love as there is to loathe on Samsara. It’s really just a matter of flipping the coin and seeing which side it lands on in any of the ten tracks. Some will find their melodeath attack satiating while others, yours truly included, will tire of the over reliance on the same song structure repeated ten fold. Music at it’s finest should be captivating and stirring but Karybdis keep things ticking over at the most predictable of rates. There are fast tremolo riffs, slow melodic sections complete with Ritual era Black Dahlia Murder strings; there’s even time for some ill advised “djent” chug breakdowns. So while the parts are all there, there’s still something not quite there. To put a finger on it, a closer look must be made.
Album opener “Rorschach” has some serious Darkest Hour vibes and that is meant in the best possible way. The major key shift in the final third of the track is a DH specialty and Karybdis make the transition really well. It’s just that the rest of the track doesn’t get going until then. There’s the slightly off putting deathcore style phrasing of the vocals and all the staples of the new found tech metal sound. It carries on from there, with superbly clean breaks in riffs and transitions, with not a hint of feedback or bite. The riffs themselves are great, real classic melodeath string skippers but these can’t save the band from falling into complacency. “Ascendancy”, “Mermaids” and “Samsara” all threaten to take flight but never quite get there due to the too good to be true production and the heard it already factor. Even when threatening to get into grandiose territory, it all feels too safe. That’s where Samsara becomes a victim of it’s own predictability.
There’s plenty of killer value on this record but it’s not enough to challenge the hierarchy of modern melodic death metal. The chops are there, especially in the lead guitar playing, and these young musicians talent is unquestionable. There just needs to be a serious tweak in their style. Samsara threatens to be great but falls short at the final point of asking. Perfect for an average length commute? Sure. Enough to fast track the band to the bright lights of melodic death metal glory? Almost, but it’s going to take some tinkering and some reflection on why ten tracks of material is definitely four of five tracks too much. It’s hard to pick apart a record that has all of the right parts in the wrong order. This is definitely not a band at the peak of their powers but is still a display of musicianship and gusto that should serve Karybdis well in the future of their development.
Karybdis’ Samsara gets…