Released: 2005, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
If Arch Enemy’s last two kicks at the can have left you feeling a bit flat, Tampa, Florida’s The Absence aim to rectify matters with their debut, FROM THE GRAVE. Shamelessly copping your favorite time-tested riffs from (insert any Swedish melodic death band here), The Absence aims to breathe new life into the genre with production help from Hate Eternal’s Erik Rutan. In a genre whose populace these days is superceded in number only by metalcore, melodic death albums are a dime a dozen. Few new bands can outdo the originators (that’s At The Gates, Arch Enemy, Dark Tranquility, et al, for the uninitiated) with Enforsaken, The Duskfall and The Bereaved being worthy challengers. So what does The Absence have to offer? Well, like a thunderclap after a shock of lightning, you know what’s coming and how it will sound and FROM THE GRAVE is no exception. Growled vocals are delivered over twin guitars that ooze with creamy, melodic riffs and solos are swapped like spit on prom night. Is FROM THE GRAVE a good album? Absolutely, and the guitars of Peter Joseph and Patrick Pintaville are the band’s calling card, but it is also one that I have heard from a number of bands, all trying to recapture the magic of mid-90s Gothenburg. For what they do, The Absence nails melodic death better than I have heard in a while and FROM THE GRAVE stands up to anything offered on THE JESTER RACE, SLAUGHTER OF THE SOUL or THE GALLERY. It is also nice to see Metal Blade finally releasing an album from a new band that doesn’t have the dreaded “–core” label attached to its music…
The dual guitar interplay of the appropriately titled “Intro” set the mood for what is about to unfold. Taking their cues from such luminous pairings as Arch Enemy’s Amott brothers and In Flames’ Stromblad/Gelotte, Joseph and Pintaville enrapture the listener in clean guitar tones that segue seamlessly into the immediately infectious riff of “A Breath Beneath.” Jamie Stewart’s harsh, growling bark is interchangeable with just about any melodic death vocalist who has ever exercised his (or her, Ms. Gossow) pipes but he gets the job done throughout without any variance in tone whatsoever (Pintaville chips in some sparsely used clean vocals, most notably found on “Seven Demons”). “Necropolis” and “Summoning The Darkness” boast solos and tight rhythms that will curl your toes, driving home the fact that the guitars are the real star of FROM THE GRAVE. “Heaven Ablaze” is a slower-paced cut with a head-bobbing gallop that could fit into the Iron Maiden canon with ease. Along with the instrumental “Intro,” “Shattered” is a searing blend of acoustic and electric guitar that ends all too soon. “Seven Demons” is a real exception to the rest of the album, with a double-tracked chorus of vocals that go together like peas and carrots.
FROM THE GRAVE is the album that Arch Enemy fans have been waiting for since BURNING BRIDGES and anyone who lost faith in In Flames when they embraced the American metal sound should rush out and pick this CD up. It is ironic that a new band from Florida is doing Swedish-influenced melodic death better than the very creators of the genre are these days but when the chips are down, The Absence has put together a solid and respectable, albeit familiar, debut. If melodic death makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, snuggle up with FROM THE GRAVE and you will be in the company of future kings.
KILLER KUTS: “A Breath Beneath,” “Heaven Ablaze,” “Seven Demons”