Released: 2015, Osmose Productions
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
France's Deathcode Society take a journey back to the glory days of Scandinavian-style symphonic black metal with their debut album that, rather fittingly, concludes with a near spot-on cover of Emperor's “With Strength I Burn” - though it follows a rather curious cover of Judas Priest's “Metal Meltdown.”
Eschatonizer opens in full regalia with the blast furnace “Pandemonium 1.1,” a veritable feast of galloping drums, swirling keyboards, cascading riffs and shimmering tremolos, and unrepentant grandiosity over its seven-plus minutes, echoing the majesty of Emperor's In The Nightside Eclipse and the power of IX Equilibrium. “NooS” follows in a similar vein, but with more of an Enthrone Darkness Triumphant-era Dimmu Borgir aura in its growled/shouted vocals and opulent choral section midway through.
The rest of the album pretty much plays out in a similar fashion, serving and volleying between these two styles, but adding industrial/electronic tinges throughout – notably on the massive, 10-minute “The Mark of Cain” and the nine-minute “The Inner Vortex” - and employing a host of guest vocalists, both of which turn out to be smart moves. These embellishments help give each song at least some semblance of a distinct personality they otherwise might not have in their more basic form, given that underlying influences of much of the music are so obvious.
The brash, full-sounding production by Dave Otero (Cattle Decapitation, etc.) brings everything together in a thunderous glory here. Given that all seven of the original tracks are at least six minutes long, they sound deservedly epic and the symphonic/industrial elements mingle well with the expansive black metal - it's just too bad it all seems so familiar.
The inclusion of “With Strength I Burn” doesn't help in that regard – especially given Deathcode's note-perfect adaptation. Perhaps that's reason for the “Metal Meltdown” rehash, which offers something of a blackened treatment, but is still quite faithful. As a high-profile head fake, it's a clever ploy, but one that loses its impact with repeated listens.
In the end, Eschatonizer is a great sounding album by a band with impressive chops and able songwriting, but no distinct self-identity. The covers only make it seem more like a tribute album and less like a bold introduction. Perhaps next time Deathcode will insert more of themselves into the mix.