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Torchbearer - Death Meditations

Death Meditations
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 18 April 2011, 2:35 PM

I would have never believed it, but there it is - A true concept Metal album that deals with the philosophy of Hagakure, which is the way of the Samurai. Even Japanese Metal bands hadn’t reached the same level of intensity, especially musically, as this album did. “Death Meditations”, via the Dutch Vic Records, is a story told by the Swedish extreme Metal band, I believe it may be recognized as a supergroup, by the name of TORCHBEARER led by ex-SCAR SYMMETRY guitarist, Christian Alvestam.. Just to straighten things up regarding the direction to where this band is heading, the suitable references that I can provide you is in the images of the later DIMMU BORGIR, WATAIN and earlier CRADLE OF FILTH.

Before sinking deep into the album’s music, I must inform you that with all of TORCHBEARER’s efforts to form a story in the spirit of the Japanese heritage, the generated feeling was rather different as the release didn’t feel as something that involves the orient, not even for a bit. I would have expected additional instruments or some special outputs that might have implied of a unique setting. “Death Meditation”, besides its well chosen name, projected the shimmering coldness that the mixture of modern Norwegian oriented Black Metal, along with modern Death Metal, has been sowing for quite some time. I think that in order to capture the true spirit of the Samurai, and Japanese folklore for that matter, it was crucial for this album to use different musical elements in order to intensify the story.

I think that with this album, TORCHBEARER truly showed their high level of musicianship and also included a high level of production. Producer Plec Johansson did a great job on taking care of this release in terms of sound & mix.. As for the music, it is aggressive, extremely accurate, highly melodic, atmospheric and utterly diverse. I was mostly amazed by the lead guitar section performed by MEAN STEAK’s guitarist, Patrik Gardberg. His classic Metal solos thundered throughout the release and added an exquisite pattern to the extreme musical reality that this album presented. Gardberg also provided a wonderful series of melodies and pure harmonies that alongside the incredible speed of some of the material, brought the rhythm section into new horizons. Superb tracks as “At Takao River” and “Severings”, a pair that has many contradictions between them, proved that extreme Metal without the loving touch of melodies, would have been rather dull and pretty much banal. Along with the former tracks, I found great interest in “Coffin-Shaped Heart”, “The Momentum”, and the closing “The Aphotic Depths”. All three presented the band’s impressive aspects.

The vocals on the album also made an impact. Par Johansson, at the helm, fulfilled his role quite well with the conjuring of a well done Blackish growls that in way resembled the vocal patten of BORGIR’s Shagrath. However, what I thought that was not so appropriate and surly unsuitable for the material were those low end grunts. Those could have been avoided. I have to admit that after hearing such a good voice, those were hard to accept. In a way those hurt the material more than helped.

Even though not every tune here is a glittering jewel, yet, “Death Meditations” is quite impressive. The aura that surrounds it is astounding, the band’s members are highly skilled and the direction and approach will do only good for them for the rest of the way. I just hope that they will cling to it. 

4 Star Rating

1. Portals
2. The Momentum
3. Coffin-Shaped Heart
4. At Takao River
5. Severings
6. In the Shadows of Leaves
7. Death Meditations
8. Penumbra
9. Dying Codex
10. The Aphotic Depths
Pär Johansson - Vocals
Christian älvestam - Guitar, Backing Vocals
Patrik Gardberg - Lead Guitar
Tomas "Plec" Johansson - Bass
Rolf "Stuka" Pilve - Drums
Record Label: Vic Records


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Edited 09 December 2022

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