WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2010 - “Enemy Unbound,” the third record from Tampa, Florida’s The Absence, finds them using heavy metal as a means of conquering personal struggles. Inspirational and upbeat, it provides a rousing soundtrack for battling demons both public and private.
The album succeeds given The Absence understand trial and tribulation. Tragedy struck during the CD’s final recording stages when drummer Justin Reynolds suffered severe back and neck injuries in a car accident. Undeterred, The Absence re-enlisted former drummer Jeramie Kling and finished “Enemy Unbound” in time for release this year.
It’s an act made more remarkable given “Enemy Unbound” stands just as tall as the band’s previous efforts, 2007’s “Riders of the Plague” and 2005’s “From Your Grave.” Such consistency is rare in melodic death metal, a genre that began in the early 1990s and has since become crowded with derivative, unoriginal bands. The Absence has surmounted this obstacle by incorporating conviction and ingenuity into their style, a combination thankfully continued on their latest effort.
“Vertigo” starts the proceedings with a twist, a fuzzy guitar chord expanding into an elaborate melody and then fading into static again. This loud-to-soft dynamic ensures “Erased” hits like an atom bomb, its riffs booming in tone and lightning in speed. “Deepest Wound” proves equally potent, catchy grooves dueling guitar harmonies over the definition of infectious metal. “Maelstrom” earns its title with churning rhythms offset by bludgeoning guitars. The title track pummels as often as it pleases, at one point letting loose with a guitar run owing more to arena rock than it does extreme metal.
“Solace” marks a resting point, serving as a poignant instrumental between each of the album’s halves. An elegant guitar solo sets a reflective tone, reaching its apex before plummeting into chilling piano keys. “The Bridge” proves a highlight, its muscular riffing accentuated by stirring guitar harmonies and a delicate acoustic passage at song’s end. “Wartorn” is a series of smooth grooves, its tempo shifting in accordance with the song’s overall melancholy atmosphere. “Hidden in White” drops onto listeners like a tactical missile strike, hitting hard with galloping death metal and crushing breakdowns. “Vengeance and Victory” thus seems a relief, its clean guitar passage providing a respite before equally tuneful death metal barrels by. “Triumph” wraps things up, soft guitar strings plucked beside a rapturous guitar solo among the album’s best. For the truly dedicated, an acoustic instrumental awaits listeners as a hidden track after eight minutes of silence.
“Enemy Unbound” doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t have to. The Absence makes melodic death metal sound fresh again as they grasp the balance needed between aggression and accessibility. This is a good album of memorable tunes made great by the belief that metal can be as catchy as it can caustic.
“Hidden in White”
“Vengeance and Victory”
“Triumph” (includes untitled hidden track)
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
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