Released: 2006, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
In a rather radical departure, long-running Dutch melodic death metallers, Callenish Circle, decided to shake up their tried and true sound by adding a dominant keyboard/sample presence on their new release, PITCH.BLACK.EFFECTS. Just as he did on MY PASSION//YOUR PAIN, producer Gail Liebling provides these samples and this move could be viewed as something of a Sven gali approach. Did the band bring Liebling in to produce and got a major shift in style as a result or was the style change pre-meditated? That is a question only the band can answer but long-time fans looking for the road-tested melodic death of FLESH_POWER_DOMINION and MY PASSION//YOUR PAIN will be shocked right out of their La-Z-Boys when things get rolling. Thankfully, the synthesizers do not take the place of the band’s trademark crunching dual riffs but rather act as a complement to them. If anything, it makes the rest of the music seem even heavier. Early Soilwork, newer Dark Tranquillity and a less-Americanized version of In Flames pretty much sums up Callenish Circle’s sound but PITCH.BLACK.EFFECTS definitely sets them apart rather than labels them copycats.
A cryptic Morse Code message opens and closes the CD but once the blinding dual guitar team of Remy Dieteren and Ron Tijssen slither in, it is immediately apparent that the three-year break since MY PASSION//YOUR PAIN didn’t soften the band up. Patrick Savelkoul’s venomous vocal delivery channels that of Tomas Lindberg, wavering between guttural growls and a mid-pitched, almost Black metal shriek that is perfectly suited to the music. This track is pure Callenish Circle but once “Ignorant” kicks in, things take a different turn. The industrial-sounding keyboards that act as a lead-in may scare off the same people who initially rebuffed Dark Tranquillity’s HAVEN album for the same reason but rest assured, it does work here, and the guitars are never sacrificed. Like David and Goliath, the two forces battle it out, although the eerie “Schwarzes Licht” does seem to get swallowed up by an over-abundance of keyboards. At certain points, this track sounds like a German new wave song with female spoken word vocals and that buzzing, trippy keyboard sound similar to KMFDM. It just doesn’t work. “Sweet Cyanide” sees a return to form with cutting riffs and a grooving chorus behind Savelkoul’s paint-peeling roar. “Guess Again” takes things one step further as Gavin Harte unleashes some ferocious blastbeats that take the song to the altar of modern, riff-based thrash a la Darkane or Dew-Scented yet maintains the melodic chorus. The punchy “As You Speak” races along at full throttle with Savelkoul double-tracking his vocals for maximum effect and further spoken word vocals from Gail of God’s Kaleen that add just the right touch of menace (“I love it when they struggle”).
Even with the introduction of keyboards to its music, Callenish Circle can still let loose with big, roaring guitars that mix with meaty rhythms and subtle melodies to create a unique tapestry of melodic death. While others continue to chase the golden carrot, Callenish Circle has been around long enough to be comfortable in their own skin and the idea of bringing keyboards in doesn’t feel forced or phony. PITCH.BLACK.EFFECTS doesn’t break any new ground musically but it is an album that settles in nicely with the rest of their catalogue and those willing to come along for the ride had better be strapped in, but won’t be sorry they did.
KILLER KUTS: “This Day You Regret,” “Ignorant,” “Sweet Cyanide,” “Guess Again,” “As You Speak”