Released: 2007, SPV Steamhammer
Hailing from the tried and true grounds of Gothenburg, Sweden, Engel is a new band formed by a bunch of guys who have been around the block a time or two already. The founder of the band is Niclas Engelin (Gardenian/In Flames/Passenger), and he recruited former The Crown guitarist Marcus Sunesson, ex-Lord Belial drummer Mojjo, and recent alumni of Evergrey, Michael Håkansson, on bass. Rounding out the lineup is vocalist Mangan Klavborn. Keeping with the high level of experience of the band itself, they also lucked out by getting In Flames front man, Anders Fridén to produce the album along with veteran metal producer Daniel Bergstrand. The end result of this collection of talent, ABSOLUTE DESIGN, is a rare beast of a debut album that deftly handles the intermingling of various subgenres of metal into a cohesive, heavy, and melodic journey through darkness.
Trying to describe the overall sound of Engel is tough, but perhaps the best way to do so would be to say that they are a heavy synthesis of electronic elements, gothic undertones, with an angry attitude often found in contemporary melodic death metal. Their influences seem to be vast. You can hear bits of the recent output of their fellow countrymen, In Flames, but you will also note hints of bands like Tool and Nine Inch Nails. Opening track, “In Splendor” proves to be one of the highlight tracks, and it is a good representative of the variety you will find throughout the disc. Starting with a moody guitar line, the song builds into a groove, then kicks into a head-banging verse, propelled by the angry screams of vocalist Mangan Klavborn, all building to an infectious, clean-vocal chorus. This song and the album at large are big on memorable melodies that will grab you on first listen and stick with you. “Casket Closing” is another killer cut, offering some unexpected moments, especially the odd machine gun, double bass drums underneath the chorus that add a real different vibe to the track. There are some lighter moments to be found as well; the jazzy verses of the album’s best track, “Next Closed Door” springs to mind as a great example of this, and it works in perfect conjunction with the higher octane chorus of the track, giving the song some great dynamics. Ultimately, it is the expert meshing of styles, the blending of the subtle with the angry, and the contrasts between lights and darks throughout the album that make it work.
While there may be some who fault the album for having a sound that is too accessible, this is a band of pros that do a great job of staying away from the pitfalls of other bands who strive for commercial gain by pandering to trends. Certainly, the overall feeling of the album conveys a contemporary vibe that should be conducive to success with a younger metal audience; however, the depth of influences that come through each composition should be enough to satisfy even the more discriminating listener. The only downfall of the album lies in the fact that some of the tracks near the end tend to be forgettable, ending on a bit of a low point. Ultimately, though, Engel seems to be a band with a future, whose success may not be limited to the underground like most of their contemporaries.