Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Astarte - Demonized (2007)

It doesn't take more than a moment of Demonized to realize that Astarte was shifting gears into a more 'modernized' context. Where their past albums offered a polished and dynamic brew of traditional Scandinavian black metal high on melodies, clean guitar sequences and other rounded techniques, this is basically a transformation into the melodic death metal you'd expect out of Swedish newcomers. That's not to say it's terrible, because surely Tristessa and crew remain competent musicians and writers, and there are still a few leaps back into the blacker climes of their backlog, but it seems quite inconsistent, with a few hyper-energetic, head-smashing features and then a lot of forgettable filler strewn about.

When I say 'melodic death', I'm not necessarily talking about the Slaughter of the Soul, Jester Race style but the more contemporary bands who used that as a base. Lots of escalating axe patterns affixed to bludgeoning, chugging material, with the vocals slightly less black than on the prior albums. The drums hammer along furiously, and there's a clear undercurrent of thrash which often feels like a 'prettier' alternative to the 21st century releases by Holy Moses. Maybe Holy Moses, Hypocrisy and Soilwork in a blender. A few of these tracks, like "Mutter" and "God Among Men", are literally exploding with energy, with almost no means of escaping the frenzied, constantly morphing patterns. They do occasionally blast off into their old turf with tracks like "God I Hate Them All", but the instances are few and far between enough that it's more of a dynamic coincidence than an acknowledgment. There are also a number of tracks with the clean guitars and pianos they used to use for atmosphere (the "Everlast" tracks), but in all honesty they feel too 'inserted 'here.

The cover of Accept's "Princess of the Dawn" isn't so bad, basically a melodic death/thrash translation, though Tristressa runs out of vocal charisma long before Udo would, and it says a lot that this oldie feels instantly more memorable than a number of Astarte's originals. I enjoy the thick, choppy guitar tone used through the rhythms of the album, a good launching point for the various leads and melodies, and the drums are likewise resilient. I suppose those into Marloes' voice from Izegrim, or Angela from Arch Enemy might find themselves in comfortable ground here, but the overall direction seems to me a little trendy, not to mention the songwriting is not the sort that dwells in the memory for long. This wasn't the first departure for the Greeks, as Quod Superius Sicut Inferius and Sirens were also more domesticated than their first two albums, but both of those are superior in retrospect, and though Demonized is not a bad spin for its style, it's the least interesting album they've yet produced, with watered down lyrics and a marginal mall appeal.

Verdict: Indifference [6.25/10] (sacrifice to things unknown)


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