Released: 2007, Metal Blade
The trio from Tampa, Florida release their second album RIDERS OF THE PLAGUE under Metal Blade, following on from their 2005 album FROM YOUR GRAVE. Tampa, Florida immediately brings to mind awesome death metal bands like Obituary, Deicide, Death, Morbid Angel, Hate Eternal and Malevolent Creation, but The Absence pays tribute to the hoar and frost of Gothenburg rather than the smiling wetlands of Florida. Yes, they’re a melodic death band, and you can stop rolling your eyes now.
Firstly, I can’t hear any metalcore influences, so we can get that out of the way straight up. There’s no breakdowns, no pussy melodic vocals and no shouting or faux-growl. They do have a dreadlocked member, but you can’t win them all. This is proper melodic death as it was back when At The Gates gave us THE RED IN THE SKY IS OURS and In Flames gave us LUNAR STRAIN and THE JESTER RACE. The guitars are crushing, with solid head-swirling riffs outlining the verses, and there is a distinct presence of good ripping solos (see the “Outro” – great leads swapped by the two guitarists Peter Joseph and Patrick Pintavalle). On second or third listen, one also becomes aware of the little fills and cute riffs and small leads that they throw in, just behind your immediate consciousness. Reading the bio, it appears that there are guest appearances by James Murphy (Death, Testament) and Per Nilsson and Jonas Kjellgren (Scar Symmetry). Jamie Steward has a good abrasive bark/growl, even slightly black-ish influenced. He’s pretty monotonous and doesn’t have much range or variety, but I’ll take that over the stench of “-core” vocals any day. The drummer keeps up a barrage of double bass through the fast bits, not really showing us much variety either.
There are some interesting bits to this CD. There’s an untitled 7th track consisting of 4 seconds of…silence? I really don’t see the point in this, and it’s things like this that bug the hell out of me. There’s also a cover of Testament’s “Into The Pit”, a decent rendering with the Gothenburg twist. Ho-hum. There’s also two instrumentals, “Prosperity” and the “Outro”. The “Outro” I’ve already spoken about, it’s a decent enough piece, showcasing what the two guitarists can do. It’s too short though at under 3 minutes. And there’s a pointless voicemail message at the end, which if it’s meant to be funny, I don’t get the joke. “Prosperity” just sounds like a regular 4 minute song that they didn’t have lyrics for.
This is a pretty average effort, its only plus point being that it avoids all the “-core” bullshit, and that raises it to a 2.5 for me. Nothing you haven’t heard before, nothing that hasn’t been done much better before, and yet, this is where In Flames and Soilwork should be in their careers. So kudos to them for showing the Swedes what Gothenburg metal should sound like.