Released: 2017, Art Gates Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
If good things come to those who wait, then Germany's Rebel Souls deserve some kind of special prize. The death metallers formed in 2000 and recorded a several demos – including the nearly hour-long Estrangement.Disillusion.Frost in 2002 - before school, work and, in one case, a move to Spain put the band on ice.
A decade later, bassist/vocalist Stefan Hielscher and guitarist Thomas Plewnia decided to dust off and re-record some of the bygone material, give it a proper mix and see what happened from there. One thing led to another and now here were are, after 17 years, with a full, genuine debut album. And it actually sounds worth all the time and effort.
Hielscher and Plewnia were able to enlist Vader/Divine Chaos drummer James Stewart to play on the album and spend enough time in the studio to give the long-awaited The Forces of Darkness a suitably resonant presentation. The results are somewhat short – 28 minutes, and that includes the acoustic opener "The Awakening" – but pretty sweet.
Rebel Souls wring just everything the can out of the album's eight songs – or at least the last seven. The urgency is apparent from the outset as "The Awakening" gives way to the careening "Descent" that launches with a furious scream from Hielscher, a blast-beat barrage from Stewart and Plewnia's fleet, agile riffing.
"Acrimony" essentially poaches the clangorous drum intro from Slayer's "Raining Blood" before ripping into tech-death mode that continues with "Decay Of A God." The adrenaline keeps pumping until "Doomsday" brings things to a close with vintage Metallica-like panache – its acoustic guitar strains book-ending epic death/thrash tumult.
Even though these songs have been kicking around since the band's first demo Dark Forces in 2001, indeed the track listing here is all but the same, they sound remarkably current – though, truth be told I have not heard the originals, so I don't know how much they may have been overhauled in the re-recording process, if indeed they were. Regardless, even though Rebel Souls never really got off the ground back in the day, the material has stood the test of time.
And given the sheer volume of the Estrangement.Disillusion.Frost demo, they've still got plenty more in reserve. So even though this is the first most people are really hearing of Rebel Souls after all this time, perhaps it won't be the last. And I, for one, am pretty psyched about that.