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(42 min, Metal Blade)
TRACK LIST: 1. Shunned by Life 3:45 2. Madness 3:18 3. Eld Jattar 5:29 4. Scorched World 3:56 5. Soul Metamorphosis 3:27 6. Despoter 3:54 7. Serpents 3:55 8. Blood Divine 3:22 9. Stonefaced Mountains 3:35 10. King God 4:18 11. Mass Produced Hybrid Humans 3:25 All music: by Frolen & Carlsson. All lyrics: by Frolen. Produced & engineered by E Rutan. LINEUP: John Frolen - bass; guitars Oddhin Sandin - vocals Hans Carlsson - guitars Nils Fjellstrom - drums
Prolusion. The history of Sweden's IN BATTLE amounts to almost ten years. Their first two CDs, the eponymous one and "The Rage of the Northmen", were released one after another in 1997 and 1998 respectively. The continuous lineup changes and other problems fevered the band in the course of the following four years, as a result of which their third album saw the light of day only at the end of 2004. "Welcome to the Battle" finds bassist / guitarist / composer and lyricist John Frolen remained the only permanent member. Singer (formerly drummer) Sandin also stood at the cradle of In Battle, but he was leaving for some time and didn't participate on "The Rage of the Northmen".
Analysis. The album is 42 minutes in duration, but it would've been more than all right with me if it were much longer, considering the spaciousness of a CD. On their new album, In Battle present a labyrinthine, polyrhythmic, intricately arranged and splendidly performed Techno Death Metal with distinct progressive elements, abandoning many standards of a traditional brutal scene. The music is utterly saturated with emotions, partly due to the vocalist's efforts. Sandin appears as a very gifted chameleon singer, free-and-easily sliding from growling to screaming and back again, incidentally touching the other, intermediate shades of his voice diapason, which is surprisingly wide for this style. Frolen and Carlsson are very thoughtful guitar players, always knowing when it is the right time to show their virtuosity and when it is necessary to restrain their blood to emphasize the work of the rhythm section, for instance. In other words, there is no unruly soloing here, although the picture changes almost kaleidoscopically. The logical, thematic development of the music with the continuous use of complicated measures is typical for each of the eleven tracks present, without exception. For all that some of them are a bit brighter than the others, none are flashy or obtrusive, displaying a perfect balance between melody and intricacy. For the most part, the music is highly strung, reaching the peak of its intensity on Eld Jattar, which has in places a light tinge of Mekong Delta (their earliest investigations, to be more precise). Only two songs: Serpents and Blood Divine, following each other, get out from the overall atmosphere, falling into a painfully desperate mood, accentuated by corresponding arrangements, e.g. slow, yet, maniacally heavy riffing, claustrophobic-like screaming etc. Speaking simply and unpretentiously, this stuff is not for the faint-heart. Producer Erik Rutan's job was conductive to the progress as well. Thanks to him, the album has a crystal-clear and, at the same time, powerful volumetric sound. Known in the word of extreme Metal above all as a former guitarist of Morbid Angel and Hate Eternal, Eric was also invited to play a lead solo on one of the songs. Well, he will now be known as a producer too. The Floridian Morris Bros, please move over, a bit.
Conclusion. For connoisseurs of a clever Death Metal, In Battle's "Welcome to the Battle" might be a pleasantly surprising outbreak of light (sorry, darkness) in the sea of a trite commonness, going under the style's trademark. Considering the album as extreme Metal, it's nearly perfect in my view. Highly recommended to those looking for mental pabulum in brutal music.
VM: March 7, 2005
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