The Absence: Enemy Unbound

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The Absence: Enemy Unbound
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The Absence: Enemy Unbound
Melodic Death Metal
Metal Blade Records
September 14th, 2010
Release length: 55:23
Myspace
Today, it’s harder and harder to try to find your own sound in the Melodic Death Metal world, especially since there’s not much you can do in it that hasn’t already been done. The Absence has been one of those bands that was stuck in that sort of dilemma, but always managed to create albums that had a great impact, focusing on intensity more then an addictive melodic nature, but not completely hanging the concept of guitar hooks out to dry. The Absence has managed to mature over time, and the sound has both tightened and matured with each release, and Enemy Unbound, the group’s third full-length effort, is no exception. While the group’s music isn’t completely original, clearly taking many ques from some of their inspirations, it still leads for an uncompromising effort that is full of tight music that is both professional, and highly addicting, without falling prey to some of the faults that held their previous releases back, but instead finding new ones.

The Absence has shown clear signs of being influenced by some of the bigger names of the Melodic Death Metal scene around the time they started, and it continues into this release. It’s clear that, as far as the music being composed for the release, there is still an Arch Enemy feel to it, as well as clear older In Flames sound, which reared up a little bit on the group’s previous effort, Riders of the Plague. This newer musical direction is hard to miss, especially since there’s such an obvious expression of it righ in the first non-instrumental track, “Erased”. This song features the same kind of guitar chords and structuring, a deeper vocal performance that is highly reminiscent of that band’s era, as well as even the atmosphere of those recordings being captured and pushed forward with a slightly more agressive Melodic Death Metal sound that one would come to expect from an early Arch Enemy recording. While the atmosphere of the music may have a somewhat pollished and darkened feel to it, the band’s signature haunting sound seems to be completely nonexistent on this release as well, leaving very little of the group’s original sound to remain.

But, while there’s great influences from these acts to the point where it can easily be discerned in the music within seconds, it’s not quite idolworship. There’s still enough of a unique approach to the music to give The Absence a somewhat original sound. Aside that, the music here just so well done it’s hard to sit down and argue that it’s a bad album because of how far they take those influences. While the introductory track “Vertigo” really doesn’t do anything for the album other then seem to just eat up time, the rest of the album just kicks in with great intensity and fantastic Melodic Death that is some of the best that the band has composed yet. The only problem is that there isn’t anything jaw dropping spectular that stands out here, as most of the songs follow the same pace, or something similar. “Solace”, however, features a fanastic guitar solo that actually manages to capture the haunting atmosphere that is associated with earlier The Absence material, especially with the inclusion of the keyboards, but for the most part it’s simply solid material that doesn’t seem to go too far out it’s way most of the time. Aside that, a lot of the bite is gone too, focusing more on the heaviness of the sound, which, sometimes, can only be summed up as crushing.

There honestly is nothing wrong at all with this album. Enemy Unbound is an enjoyable album from start to finish, and every track on here is heavy and features a good deal of diversity to the point where it all follows suit with the overall sound with no tracks tacked on to eat up space in the track list or add time to the album. While “Vertigo” isn’t the best instrumental out there, “Solace” does make up for it nicely as an instrumental that focuses more on a guitar solo. But even witht he obvious influences in play, “Erased” stands as one of the strongest songs on this release with a faster pace then some of the material here, focusing more on tighter guitar chords and features a more mature sounding vocal approach that makes everything just sound so much better. The title track, “Enemy Unbound”, makes for a great track that comes at a slower pace, but is focused more on the melody then anything, being a track one would expect to hear dominate the charts on any metal radio station out there as it nicely goes between lighter, more accessible melodic hooks to heavier, driving music in between. However, the only fault of this is that it really does fall more in the idolworship category then anything on this release as you would honestly swear you’re listening to a new Arch Enemy song, but with male vocals instead of their signature female fronted approach. “The Bridge” makes for a great songf as well that acts as a sort of appology for the obvious idolworship that hit “Enemy Unbound”, but even there you still hear the influence, and even a slight Amon Amarth influence into the mix, especially with the way they handle the chorus.

The only negative thing here is, like the band’s last release, the album ends on an instrumental track that appears longer then it is. “Triumph” is perhaps the most original sounding track on the entire album, but it’s also the most conflicting as it’s nothing but a Progressive Rock instrumental that is composed in such a way that it’s a very upbeat song that would appear on an instrumental album of self empowering songs. The actual song just stops at two minutes, echoing out with the last few chords, and it all happens abruptly as if there is more to it but just decided to cut it there in the studio. About eight minutes later, another out of place instrumental kicks in that continues to show the band’s Progressive Rock nature, this time being acoustic and having a very tribal feel to it, but the guitar chords still have that upbeat feeling that the start of “Triumph” features. If you were a little annoyed at the lack of originality through the album, these two tracks will be more then enough to send you over the edge, especially with such a huge gap between the instrumentals, only to come up to another conflicting and short lengthed instrumental.

Honestly, Enemy Unbound is a great album. The music is impressive and some of the tightest material the band has put out thusfar. In fact, it’s easily one of the most promising releases to hit the shelves for 2010. The problem here, however, is not random filler tracks, as there simply are none outside the introduction, which is common, or tracks that feel out of place. The only thing that genuinely draws this album down is the fact that this is not The Absence. One spin through Enemy Unbound, and there is no denying that there is influence from plenty of bands. Sometimes, you get obvious impressions of In Flames, some Dark Tranquillity, At the Gates, there’s even a little Amon Amarth thrown in. While Melodic Death Metal is so packed with bands and it’s hard to be original at all anymore, there’s one thing that bands need to do, and that’s have a unique sound. Sadly, Enemy Unbound really doesn’t have much of a unique or original approach outside of the instrumentals on “Triumph” that obliterate what atmosphere exists on the recording, as well as conflicts greatly with the entire album, and doesn’t really feature any songs that stand out, though the entire album, except the opening and closing instrumentals is well done and full of great songs, leaving this as one of those albums that can only be described using one word: Frustrating.

01. Vertigo – 1:23
02. Erased – 4:24
03. Deepest Wound – 5:33
04. Maelstrom – 4:48
05. Enemy Unbound – 5:03
06. Solace – 2:38
07. The Bridge – 5:03
08. Wartorn – 5:36
09. Hidden in White – 5:20
10. Vengeance and Victory – 5:04
11. Triumph – 11:58
Overall Score: 5/10


Physical review copy of this release provided by personal funds.