Released: 2003, Nuclear Blast/Scarlet
Although this is the second album by The Defaced, KARMA IN BLACK is my introduction to the band. Their first album, DOMINATION COMMENCE, came out in 2002.
I didn’t know what to expect from the band, but according to the bio despite having roots in traditional Swedish metal, they apparently have more of an American extreme metal sound. Well I wouldn’t go quite that far. I can hear the melodic death metal influence a la Soilwork in here, but then I can also hear an influence from OLD Machine Head….not the “we like to jump da fuk up” Machine Head, but the godly BURN MY EYES era Machine Head This mixture of these two styles is noticeable right away on the album’s opening 2 tracks, “Fumes From The Swamp” and “Once In Between”. This is followed by “10 vs. 9” which starts out sounding like a more melodic groove song before going into a heavier verse but the melody returns on the chorus. I really like the mixture of vocal styles on this one from borderline death metal to the melodic (yet still ballsy) chorus. “Exit Body On Mass” switches between a melodic death metal feel to almost Alice In Chains in some parts – an interesting mixture for sure, but not the strongest track on here. “Beneath My Swirl” has a bit of an older Metallica feel with a Soilwork overcoat. In “A Moment of Clarity” near the 2min mark the AIC influence again raises it’s head on the vocal melodies for just a short moment. There is a small bit of a Pantera feel on the riff following this section. The outro riff on this track is damn cool and thrashy, but too short. “The Fading Suns” has some start/stop riffs that remind me a little of Fear Factory. This is perhaps the noisiest song on here (except for the clean breakdown in the middle) and my least favorite. “Soulsides” starts out with a much more groove metal feel. The riff at the beginning is like a heavier version of “Hole In the Shy” by metal gods Black Sabbath. This is currently one of my favorite tracks on the album. Another of my favorites on here is “Forever Winding”. This is nothing like the other tracks on here. It has clean guitars and clean vocals for most of the song until the outro. This is pretty much a ballad, at least for this band, and yet it fits on the album. I really like the fact that band is not In Flames or At The Gates clone #99034. The Defaced have the elements of some of those bands, but they mix this with much more. The album closes with the title track, “Karma In Black”. Oddly, this is one of my least favorite tracks on the album. It’s ok, but doesn’t grab me overall. On the chorus, the vocals reminded me just a little of James Hetfield.
The comparisons to other bands from Sweden – Soilwork and Darkane – are applicable and perhaps unavoidable since members of The Defaced are in those two bands. I again have to stress, The Defaced are not merely living in the shadow of either band. They are their own band with a different focus. Based on just this album, I would take The Defaced over In Flames or Darkane any day. However, they don’t top Soilwork in my own mind’s little list of personal favorites. The Defaced are more of a straightforward band than either of those two. There are no noticeable keys and they have more grooving riffs, at least in places. They do lack in the lead guitar department, which is very unfortunate, and is the main complaint I have with the album. This is somewhat made up for by the strength of the songs and by the chameleon-like vocals of Henrik Sjiowall who at one minute can rip your head off, then the next sing with more feeling and melody. If you like melodic death metal but you also like older Machine Head, Fear Factory, and Metallica I think you should give this band a listen. I was pleasantly surprised that the band does indeed have it’s own identity.