Monday, July 17, 2023

Golem - The 2nd Horizon (1998)

The artwork for the second Golem, while equally as cheesy as the first, seems a lot more innocuous, and its cosmic orientation gives off the impression that the Germans might be taking their slightly technical Carcass-like death metal into a more progressive direction. In fact, that is more or less the truth, although it's not yet as atmospheric, jazzy or new age as it might look, this sophomore does steer them a little further away from the worship that defined their debut. In fairness, there is still a lot of that influence gleaming through, largely through the vocals but also in a few of the spikes or more melodic riffing, but they definitely seem headed down their own path, and it's a good choice because this is probably my favorite album they've put out.

Part of that is the improved production, which is less punchy and digital feeling as their first album which went more for that Necroticism vibe. This is more balanced and organic, and works well with the denser melodic chord patterns. I don't think the lead tone on this album is that great, especially for the spacey harmonies they're infusing, but it's good enough to get the gist of their ideas, and there are a LOT of them, because Golem is easily one of the riffiest death metal bands to never ascend the throne, possibly because of that derivative factor which hovered over them for a few years. And it still does pop up from time to time, like the chugging breaks in "Departure" which might remind you of a certain tune from Heartwork, or the raucous vocal delivery, but where the Germans excel here is when they go full on with some of the most melodic material like "The Shortening of the Way" or "Heretics", the sorts of tunes that instantly embed into my memory.

There were definitely other great bands that took the Carcass stylings and ran with them, Exhumed and Impaled from here in the States come to mind, but Golem almost represented a potential strain of melodic death metal that might have thrived if more bands had gone that route rather than aping the In Flames, At the Gates and Dark Tranquillity. The 2nd Horizon is a really great example of that potential development, and strong enough to get this band to the next level, but somehow that just wasn't about to happen...maybe it's the cover art, maybe groups like Soilwork and Darkane were just doing more exciting material (they were), but this one definitely holds up even more than the debut.

Verdict: Win [8.25/10]

No comments: