Florida, the self-styled sunshine state and home to retiring pensioners seems like an incongruous place for crafting cold, oppressive, metal records but over recent years, The Absence (for it is they) have done just that and have, at the same time, carved themselves a pretty decent niche as one of the US’s more reliable melodic death metal bands.
Their latest album, ‘Enemy Unbound’, continues to plough the melodic death metal furrow with aplomb and determination. Like 2007’s ‘Riders of the Plague’, The Absence wear their influences with pride. Some In Flames style guitar work here, a little (well, maybe more than a little) At The Gates there: the Scandanavian influences and attention to the rules and traditions of melodic death being keenly observed. What’s set The Absence apart has been their technical musical prowess and the seamless blending of aggressive thrash within the brutal framework of death metal that has paid the band dividends.
‘Enemy Unbound’ consolidates the band’s vision and, at times, adds to it. The beauty of some groups is knowing exactly what you’re going to get- that’s true of The Absence. You want excellent musicianship? Then look no further than “Triumph” where you can indulge your love of guitar fretwork as much as you dare. You want in-your-face brutality? Skip along to “Erased” and revel in the aural equivalent of a shave with a rusty blade. You want no messing melodic death metal? “Maelstrom” gives it by the bucket load.
For the album’s strengths, however, there are also some drawbacks. It is, at the end of the day, another melodic death metal record and I’m not sure whether that’s entirely necessary. Its not that it’s a bad melodic death record- it isn’t- but that’s ALL it is. It’s not that I want The Absence to be something that they aren’t but their single-mindedness has not progressed their artistic vision in the way that you would have hoped. Songwise, although there is structure and lots of melody, there aren’t enough really strong hooks that will keep you coming back to this record time and again. Don’t get me wrong- ‘Enemy Unbound’ is fine, but that’s just about it.
Perhaps I’m being unduly harsh and am being a pompous rock critic- the record does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a solid, no messing about melodic death metal album. No, its not going to change your life. No, its not going to guarantee the band a worldwide audience. But, it will command your attention, keep it a while and deliver you that visceral rush that you need.