Company: Pulverised Records Release: 2009 Genre: Death Reviewer: Etiam
A vicious and compact record
Score another point for second-tier revivals. This is by no means a knock on Seance, but news of their reunion in 2008 didn't have quite the same impact on the metal world as, for instance, Atheist, Pestilence, Immortal, Asphyx, Dissection, et cetera. But while many of the reunion records from those top-billed bands have left fans ambivalent, less feted (and often Swedish) outfits are scoring solidly, almost across the board. Perhaps the success of artists like these is partially due to the fact that the entire industry wasn't hanging on their output, and they could write in relatively unpressured conditions. But whatever the case, Seance's first album in more than 15 years, 'Awakening of the Gods', is a vicious and compact record that hits harder than most other reunion records of the past handful years.
From 'Wasted' to 'Burn Me', and with few exceptions, new Seance writhes like Martyr, grinds like Master, breaks down like Slayer, and slips in the occasional rock 'n' roll like Yyrkoon. But above all, Seance is reminiscent of one band that, when the lineup dots are connected, should be no surprise. Since Seance's last record, 'Saltrubbed Eyes' in 1993, the majority of the band's lineup has spent their time in the death/thrash outfit Satanic Slaughter as well as the more contemporary Witchery. Indeed, four of the band's present/past members have spent time in Witchery, and that fusion of riffing, sneering evil and outright headbanging entertainment is prominent on 'Awakening of the Gods'. Some of these qualities were evident on their past records--when Patrik Jensen was on guitar instead of Richard Corpse--but here they are developed in full, leaving behind the chunky breakdowns and occasional mid-tempo number in their past.
Some of the most insidious moments on the album actually come courtesy of the two acoustic (amplified nylon string) instrumentals. They bring additional variation to an already inspired effort, and are executed too precisely to be gimmicky or regularly skippable. The remaining nine tracks are scattered with occasional odd riff melodies, while wailing, wah-ing solos spice up a pretty consistent riffing tempo. The solos aren't particularly memorable, but a few have neat ticks that stick in the brain, such as the single delay repeat at the end of the solo in 'Your Time Has Come'. Such quirks as this are judiciously spread throughout the album and instrumentation, and are testament to the the attention to detail and focus that went into crafting this record.
Sapping some of the album's punch is its tepid production, which doesn't take full advantage of what the new millennium has to offer to death metal guitar distortion. Perhaps this is reflective of the thrash habit over the past 15 years, since that genre generally doesn't aim for buzzsaw grind. To be fair, too thick a production wouldn't have fit this record's grimy atmosphere, so the buzz of Marshall is an appropriate partner in the end, if not the most satisfyingly heavy.
The only other gripe worth mentioning is the vocal production. The fundamentals of Johan Larsson's bassy roar are virtually identical to 'Saltrubbed Eyes', but here he is buried more in the mix and seems to have a constant chorus or phaser on his vocals (almost as if he's growling through a bong). Sometimes this method is employed to disguise a voice's decline, but Larsson deserves the benefit of the doubt, and a more authentic treatment would have helped 'Awakening...' climb to the next level. Otherwise, fans of the band--and old-school Swedish death in general--may take up 'Awakening of the Gods' without worry. Though it won't teleport a listener back in time, it never intends to. After 16 years, Seance is just as happy to break necks in the here and now.
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