Saturday, July 29, 2023

Embracing - I Bear the Burden of Time (1996)

I Bear the Burden of Time is the textbook example of an album that could have likely succeeded if not for a crippling production that rendered it little more than long demo. Embracing clearly had the chops to reach the next level with a lot of their Swedish peers, and even came up with a few riffing configurations or ideas that felt fresh to me as I was exploring all this stuff in the 90s, but damn does this album just sound rather weak in the execution of its mix. Now I say that as a fan, this is my favorite of their two offerings, and I think it's worth a listen even despite this major shortcoming, but to think what an AAA+ studio production would have done for all these catchy tunes. I'm vaguely aware of a digital reissue for this that came out like a decade afterwards, which may or may not have a remaster, but even worse cover artwork, so I can't really speak if that solves the problem or if it's even just too late to matter...

Early At the Gates or Dark Tranquillity would be your reference point here, with thin and melodic rhythm guitars as the rule rather than constant barrages of thicker chords. Sure, the latter are present when it matters, but this is a band that simply THRIVES on those old classic metal melodies coursing across the verses and chorus sections. Even with this tinny mix, the mood being created by those lines and the chords and bass beneath is ample evidence enough that this was some choice stuff neutered by the low-impact recording. The vocals are actually fairy standard for the style, a protracted rasp that falls more in line with black metal, but it's just too loud in the mix and that sort of grinds against the more beautiful performance of the instruments. You do get some other vocals here, distant shouts of torment as in "Shades Embrace", and those are automatically more atmospheric and interesting, but it's again not that the vocals are bad, they are spot on for the style, just given a little too much heft against the true gifts that the album has to offer.

Clean guitar parts, leads, synths, I Bear the Burden of Time had a lot to offer, total 90s escapism that feels like melodeath flirting with a bit of proggy/Goth atmosphere, but sounding like a bad demo tape that your friends recorded in your basement one soggy afternoon with the early version of some dated digital recording software. If you could bulk this one up like a Whoracle, a Rusted Angel, or even to the level of a Steel Bath Suicide (which was itself a little rougher than normal, but a masterpiece by comparison to this), Embracing would have had their feet in the door towards that upper echelon of Swedish melodic death metal royalty, or at least this debut would enjoy a cult status greater than just a handful of curmudgeons who complain about what might have been...

Verdict: Win [7.25/10]

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