Awe, death metal, the crème de la crème of metal in the eyes, ears, and hearts of its most fervent supporters. It’s the result of metal‘s steady progression into further extremity from birth to present. By its very nature, death metal has veered further away from the mainstream than any of its fellow subgenres. So far, in fact, it typically takes the modern metal noob a few stepping stone bands, such as Five Finger Death Punch or Ghost, before they plunge into the genre’s zenith of brutality, if they ever even get that far.
Those who delve this deep are intensely passionate for better or worse. It is not uncommon to debate about death metal bands in the same way that someone would discuss the varying nuances of microbrews. Lest we forget that this is the subgenre where metal elitists typically reside. Upon inspection, it is not difficult to imagine why. The passion that oozes out of fans breeds intense discussion that is often tied to deeply personal experiences that helped shape their musical taste in the first place. That being said, this passion makes metal fans the most loyal of any music genre, and that is something to hang our cap on.
Let me assure you that I am finished waxing poetic on the finer details of death metal. There’s much more to it than I could ever touch upon in an album review. It’s a subject that books have been written on after all. However, I did want to set the stage for Embodiment as I think they’ve done something on Palingenesis that is difficult to do for a modern death metal band—They created an engaging album. This is immensely important when dealing with a passionate, albeit picky, fanbase.
Death metal bands are a dime a dozen. A majority of them are an uninteresting bore, some of them are good, a smaller portion are solid, and a minuscule amount are great to legendary. It remains to be seen if Embodiment will be the latter, but they are off to a great start with Palingenesis.
The first thing I noticed while listening through Palingensis is the quality songwriting. Embodiment knows how to write a rippin’ death metal tune. The album is loaded with complicated riffs and soaring leads. The fretboard gymnastics can lose intent if they are disengaging, but that wasn’t an issue here. The band proves they are more than capable of crafting riffs that are certified headbangers. To compliment the rhythm guitar work, there are solos a-plenty. I was a fan of the lead tone and kudos to the band for writing semi-memorable leads. Too many times in extreme metal the solos fail to stand out. I’m not asking for every lead to melt my face Eddie Van Halen style, but it’s refreshing when they are written with an ear for melody.
The next thing that stood out to me were the vocals of Harry Smithson. He does an admirable job of adding dynamics to his delivery. The layering of the vocals was a nice touch too, and there were moments that reminded me of the great Travis Ryan of Cattle Decapitation fame. I know that’s high praise, but the way Harry delivers some of his high screams is reminiscent of Travis’ goblin witch voice. Now, Harry doesn’t utilize this method as a way to convey melody like Travis does, but it’s effective in breaking up the vocal monotony.
Palingenesis is a great sounding album from a production standpoint, and Embodiment has a clear grasp on their own unique sound. So much so that I was surprised to learn it was only a sophomore release. I anticipate Palingenesis will help the band grow their audience. They are criminally underrated as their following stands at the writing of this review. I’d like to see that change.
The album is filled with solid tracks but lacks enough standouts to put it on par with releases from the titans of death metal. I can’t deny that Embodiment has infectious ambition and I look forward to hearing more from them in the future. Consider Palingenesis a firm step in the right direction.
Favorite Songs: “Reverence Through Disgust,” “Eternal Torment”, and “Sanctuary”
Release Date: 4/24/2020
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