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Unravel – Eras of Forfeit

Unravel
Eras of Forfeit
by Alexis Lareine at 29 April 2018, 4:29 PM

UNRAVEL is an Australian death metal band that has been extremely active since its formation in 2015. They’ve put out new releases every single year, but “Eras of Forfeit” is their first full-length. They seem to have exploded onto the scene: for a short-lived band, they have already had the privilege of supporting death metal giants such as THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, CATTLE DECAPITATION, and PSYCROPTIC.

One doesn’t even have to read the band’s influences – this album cover says it all. It is immediately reminiscent of MORBID ANGEL’S “Gateways to Annihilation” album art.

“Arbitraitor” has an intro that actually drew an “oh shit” from me. It immediately bashes down the door and kicks your face in. There is so much energy packed into this song, and that is exactly what an intro track needs – it pulls you in and keeps you hooked. It fades in with techdeath-style guitars, then jumps right into blast beats and a long, foreboding growl. The distortion that enters with the growl worries me; there’s obviously clipping, something that should really be avoided in music production, but for some reason they chose to keep it in the final mix. The distortion is disconcerting and makes me wish that there was just no growl at all. The hardcore vocals that enter are unexpected, and the clipping continues. When the lower growls enter as the riff progresses, it is a sweet relief, and the vocals have a great, rich tone. A guitar solo enters unexpectedly at 0:53. It’s short, not technical, but it has all the energy and style of a thrash riff, and it fits the style of the music. An earlier riff repeats, extremely simple, almost on the lazy side, but catchy enough. A breakdown follows, and this is everything you want from a breakdown.

The vocals go back into hardcore territory, then are followed by those rich lower growls. I’m normally not a fan of hardcore vocals, but there is a mind blowing amount of aggression in these vocals, and I genuinely enjoy listening to it. I wish the song ended more cleanly: it ends on a chord ringing out, but the chord doesn’t fade at all, it doesn’t stop. The song just ends in the middle of this chord, but it seems suitable for this style that is just pure raw aggression. I found that I was holding my breath through this entire song; I was so excited to see what was coming next. I had to actually take a break after listening to this – it’s almost exhausting to listen to, but in a completely positive way. There is so much energy packed into the 2:13 of this song. This is a song that you show people if you want them to understand hardcore, because I just didn’t get the appeal of hardcore music before. The mix leaves something to be desired: the rhythm guitars are over-distorted, and the kick drum gets overwhelmed in the mix, but the snare has a great crack to it, and the bass has the perfect amount of room to breathe.

“No Validation for Violation” just keeps the face-bashing going. This song has just as much energy as the last song; it’s a torrent of tremolo picking, skank beats, and brutal vocals. It reflects the album art in the sense that it sounds like a modern version of MORBID ANGEL. The riff at 0:40 is incendiary. It rages in with blast beats and the hardcore vocals interchanging with the richer brutal vocals. The utilization of both vocalists is really what sets these songs over the top. The song itself progresses and builds wonderfully, and this song has a great pattern of build and release. Again, the song ends in the middle of a chord, and, again, I wish it didn’t. This song is another one that just comes in, rips your face off, and stomps off as chaotically as it entered.

“Reign of Wasps” is another hard-hitter. It enters with a very MORBID ANGEL-esque riff, and progresses into a great classic flurry of tremolo picking and the richer lower vocals. The hardcore vocals sprinkled in can only be described as demonic, in a completely positive way. These are the only hardcore vocals I have ever actively enjoyed listening to. There is still some clipping here and there; it’s off-putting, and it is hard to tell whether it was somehow overlooked by the producer or if it was left in intentionally to match the chaotic style of the music. All of these songs so far have clocked in under two and a half minutes, and it adds to the chaos of the album. The breakdown that enters at 1:48 rounds out the song perfectly. I’ve come to expect the songs ending in the middle of a chord, but I’m still holding out hope that they change it up at some point.

“Carcinogenesis” is another incredible, high-energy two minutes of furious riffs, hardcore vocals interweaving with brutal mids, and another incendiary guitar solo with dive bombs scattered throughout. It is stylistically simple, but there is so much raw energy in this solo and it’s just fun to listen to. “Sycophant” is a great change-up from the rest of the album: this song starts with a groovy riff followed by an even groovier old-school style riff. The change of pace is incredible – it switches to a classic thrash style riff, and then into a grimace-inducing riff – it’s simple but extremely catchy, a headbanger for sure. There is an uncharacteristic section, much more laid-back than the rest of the album, that closes out the song: a slow, casual riff with a tremolo-picked lead over the top that crescendos with the rest of the riff into thirty seconds of guitar runs and static. This song actually completely fades out before it finishes, and it’s a refreshing deviation from the rest of the album – a sort of palate-cleanser.

“Isle of Rot” is a straight-up old school death metal song, another refreshing change-up from the rest of the album. The classic death metal vocals really get to shine in this song – there is no hardcore in sight. This one is just catchy riff after catchy riff, with the drums bringing a groove in the second minute of the song that keeps it progressing consistently. This song also ends in a wave of static with guitars feeding back. My only complaint about this album so far is the way the vocals clip; it does not happen often, but enough that it’s really a nuisance on an otherwise incredible, face-bashing, wall-of-death-inducing, brutal album. “Perpetual Servitude” is 45 seconds of more hardcore chaos. It continues the pattern of static and feedback before returning to the heavy-hitting, simply brutal feel of previous songs on the album. The hardcore vocals, which where absent in most of the last two songs, return, and the exchange and combination of the two vocal styles are innovative – in modern metal, you have one or the other, but never both, and it’s a style that really sets this band apart.

“Scorched” provides another punch in the face, blasting in with tremolo-picked riffs with the stylistically death metal vocals on top. The breakdown at 1:00 actually left me speechless. It’s a standard hardcore breakdown, but there is so much aggression and brutality behind it. I think it could do without the tremolo-picked lead guitar line over top; it feels a bit unnecessary. I actually wish this song was longer. This is another song that breaks in, bashes in your face, and leaves as suddenly as it entered. At this point I’m texting all of my friends who are evenly slightly into death metal and telling them not to sleep on this. It’s really no wonder this band has catapulted the way it has; it is a fantastic, innovative combination of old-school death metal and hardcore, with some thrash elements sprinkled in here and there.

“Fostering the Festering Spawn” seems to be the song that “Unravel” has pushed the most on social media; it is the only song so far to have a music video (a link will be provided at the bottom). It enters with a techier feel that is absent from the rest of the album. The hardcore elements are nowhere in sight, and neither are the old-school style riffs. This song is pure, modern death metal at its best. I get that short songs are a common element in hardcore, but this is another song that I wish was longer. This band can clearly excel at modern death metal with a tinge of techdeath style. The riff that enters at 0:57 is another hard-hitter, accentuated perfectly by the drums, and the riff following that closes out the song has a fantastically groovier edge.

“Mortals’ Thirst” is where the drums really get to shine on this album, with constant aggressive fills, skank beats interchanging with blasts to suit the mosh-inducing, high-energy riffs. The snare is deliciously aggressive – this song seems to have been meant specifically to showcase Ben’s impossibly energetic style. The final track, “Vermankind”, opens with an intro that builds consistently and keeps you completely hooked for what comes next: an old-school riff with the brutal vocals following the guitar pattern. The following section is a brutal change-up that exudes pure aggression. The feel change at 2:00, complete with pinch harmonics, is reminiscent of Morbid Angel again, and the section itself seems to drag. To be honest, the album could have ended with “Mortals’ Thirst” – I wish this album had ended the way it had began and consistently remained throughout each song – with boundless energy, aggression, and sections that exude the purest evil that man is capable of.

I can confidently say that this is the album that will turn skeptics on to hardcore music – it did for me. This is one of the best releases of the year, without a doubt. The mixture of old-school, thrash, and some techdeath elements within the hardcore death metal style are what set this album beyond any album of this genre that I’ve heard. This is one of the best premier full-length albums from a band that have been released in a long time. I will be closely following this band and anxiously awaiting the next release.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 9
Memorability: 10
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Arbitraitor
2. No Validation for Violation
3. Reign of Wasps
4. Carcinogenesis
5. Sycophant
6. Isle of Rot
7. Perpetual Servitude
8. Scorched
9. Fostering the Festering Spawn
10. Mortals’ Thirst
11. Vermankind
Lineup:
Ben – Drums
James – Guitar/Vocals
Shaun – Guitar/Vocals
Sean – Bass
Record Label: Life. Lair. Regret. Records
     


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Edited 19 August 2019
 

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