Released: 2017, Self-released
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
They might hail from North Carolina, but Undrask sound a hell of a lot more Gothernburg than Greensboro on their debut full-length album, Battle Through Time. Mixing technical/melodic death metal with power metal flourishes, the quintet's sound channels Amon Amarth and old In Flames/Dark Tranquillity/Arch Enemy with the dexterity, finesse and heft that some of their influences – In Flames, in particular – haven't shown themselves in quite some time.
Thematically, Battle Through Time has Amon Amarth written all over it. Even thought it's not Viking-specific, its sci-fi concept of a man forced to fight and die throughout time in alternate realities is redolent with tales of vengeance, violence, weaponry and mayhem – especially “Longhammer” with its folk-metally hue, war cry chorus and anthemic swells.
Frontman Steve Wynn's forceful, abrasive growl and drummer Aaron Schimmel's steady gallop accentuate the Amarthy overtunes over much of the album. But that is countered by the sleek, nimble guitar interplay of Erik Collier and Darryl DeWitt which, when joining forces with the catchy, crunching melodies that drive the 10 tunes here, keeps things from getting stuck in a “war metal” rut.
The tag-team of Collier on lead and DeWitt on rhythm guitar is especially dazzling, complimenting and contrasting one another with the sort of lock-step agility and flair that made Jesper Strömblad and Björn Gelotte such a formidable tandem during the golden era of In Flames prior to Reroute To Remain. Indeed, “Faceless Eyes” is perhaps a bit too faithful in capturing that magic, sounding almost like a cover version of one of the best songs In Flames never wrote.
The rousing riffs they interject in between give the title track, “Champion of the Dawn,” “Black Oceans” and the aforementioned “Longhammer” plenty of brawn and ensure the technicality rarely becomes intrusive. Indeed, the balance displayed on Battle is darn near perfect, which says as much about the band's songwriting chops as it does for their obvious musical ability.
Battles is an impressively conceived and skillfully performed first album. Though Undrask make their inspirations a bit too obvious now and again, it's never that big a deal, as good as the album is. And while they may still be obscurities now, this is one band to keep a close eye on down the road.