Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Album Review: Deadlock - "Hybris"

Not unlike so many other bands in the European metal sphere who have managed to survive the inherent adversity of multiple album cycles, Deadlock has homed in on a formula that works for them, and each individual new record represents minor tweaks that elicit a new permutation of that formula more than they do a wholesale shift in musical paradigm.  For their fresh album “Hybris,” Deadlock works to achieve the proper, nearly impossible balance that fans want, teetering between some new features and the same backbone that we’ve all come to know and love.

Some of that comes from an influx of new talent, which is an idea that Deadlock isn’t exactly new to.  There is some shock however, in the departure of Sabine Scherer, the clean female vocalist who had become an inimitable cornerstone of the band’s signature ‘beauty and the beast’ sound.  (Sidebar apropos of nothing – ‘beauty and the best metal’ is, beyond argument, the stupidest name for a metal subgenre of them all for a variety of reasons we won’t get into here.  Nevertheless, it narrowly edges out the alleged dichotomy between ‘funeral black metal’ and ‘funeral doom metal.’  Moving on.)  Scherer has been replaced by Margie Gerlitz, who is equally capable, though perhaps in different dimensions.  Gerlitz can sing, there’s no doubt, but those accustomed to Scherer’s ebullient vocal quality will find that the new girl on the block is a little more muted, perhaps a little more dire.  It’s not better or worse, but it is different and therefore worth at least mentioning.

That said, one of “Hybris’” more interesting dynamics that’s not readily apparent upon first blush is that as the album unfolds, there’s a realization that several of Gerlitz’s vocal parts could just have easily, with a little production help, be used in a Top 40 song.  It’s a little off-putting to come to this realization, but it evolves into one of the deeper parts of the record, as the listener starts to imagine her part from “Welcome Deathrow” or “Berserk” without the double kick backing and placed instead over merely the harmony.  It’s a deceptive amount of unexpected depth, and whether intentional of accidental, it gives “Hybris” a hook that many of its contemporaries don’t possess.

Additionally, Deadlock excels in quality bridges and transitional elements on this album.  As just one example of many, “Blood Ghost” rocks and screams for a good long while before narrowing out into a serene guitar outro…or is it?  The song ramps back up at the end, using the last minute and a half to roll through some comfortable solos and gang chanting, which ultimately becomes the intro for the title track to follow.  It’s this kind of forward thinking and melding of elements that makes “Hybris” stand out even from other Deadlock records, never mind their genre contemporaries.

The album’s most beautiful composition is “Ein Deutsches Requiem” (a German requiem, if you couldn’t figure that out,) which vacillates between pounding metal hammer and borderline operatic chorus a few times within just a few minutes, with no section sounding out of place.  It’s a piece of songcraft that reminds the listener of luminaries in genre blending like Turisas and the ability to contextually switch gears like Destrage.

Oh, and of course, there are capable metal riffs seeded in throughout the record.  Right at the beginning with “Epitaph” and running through the first handful of songs, Sebastian Reichl and Ferdinand Rewicki craft plenty of buzzing guitar lines, often composing convincing melody and harmony.  So for everything discussed above, there’s still plenty of metal to be had here.

One thing before we wrap up – this may be a personal thing for me, but Deadlock has always been a band that I enjoy when I’m listening to, and if someone asked me if I was a fan I would surely say ‘yes’, but they seldom to mind when I’m browsing through my music collection for something to listen to.  “Hybris” is an excellent record for all the reasons we’ve discussed, but I don’t find myself humming the tunes when I’m not listening to it.  That doesn’t detract from its undeniable quality, but it does merit a note.

Deadlock, with some band members shifted around and a couple new ones introduced, continues on in fine form, producing another top notch metal record, arguably among their best to date.  If you’re a fan of the band or genre, “Hyrbis” is an automatic buy.  If you’re unfamiliar, this is as good a jumping-on point as any.  Unilaterally recommended.

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