Degradead return with their latest offering in the self-titled album, Degradead. After their massively impressive 2013 release, The Monster Within, I am very excited to hear what the Swedish melodic death metal band have put together this time round.
Degradead have been around for a long time in one form or another. They were originally named Septima and formed under that name in 2000 where they released seven demos in total between the years 2002 and 2007. They never really hit it off though and in 2007, changed their name to Degradead. A year later they released their first full album, Til Death Do Us Apart with support from In Flames in that they recorded it all at In Flames’ studio and it was even co-produced by then In Flames guitarist, Jesper Stromblad. It was reviewed relatively positively receiving an average of 7 out of 10 in most magazines. Another 3 albums came out spaced out by a year or two each before The Monster Within was released in 2013 and this is where I first came across them. I was blown away by this album and rated it very highly (you can read that review here).
This new album, Degradead, was released on the 29th of January 2016 through Dockyard1 Records. Amazingly, after over a decade together, only one out of 5 members has changed since the forming of the band which really shows strong dedication to the band.
Degradead are currently made up of Mikael Sehlin on vocals, David Szugs and Anders Nystrom on guitars, Michel Barzen on bass guitar and the one change, Amit Mohla on drums replacing Kenneth Helgesson.
Degradead, the album, has 11 tracks on it in total. Most of them are around 4 minutes long, some just under or just over but generally 4 minute tracks and the total album length is around 44 minutes long.
Musically they are compared to the usual suspects of In Flames, Nightrage, Soilwork and At The Gates though I think that is just because they have been categorised as being a Melodic Death Metal band and even that is possibly just because of their Scandinavian origins.
The first track on the album is called Afterlife and is also the track that was previewed before the album release via various social media outlets. The song starts with a drum beat before breaking straight into a huge scream and accompanying riff. Mikael’s vocals are hugely impressive here and really demonstrate his range with shouts, screams and death metal verses followed by well sung choruses. The song breaks down into a wonderful strings section that slowly rebuilds back up to the beautifully sung chorus before ending with the same crunching riff and screams that the song started with.
There are loads of prominent factors over the whole album but what will really stand out is the absolutely mind blowing range of vocals from Mikael. There are great riffs, solos, bass and truly amazing drums but the different vocal ranges seem to act as fills and bridges at times to tie a very good song together perfectly and create a brilliant song.
Many songs appear to follow a simple melodic death metal structure at first, as in the heavy verse followed by melodic chorus, but that really unfairly oversimplifies what Degradead are doing. We have all of that but so much more here and they deserve a huge amount of respect for daring to stand out from the crowd a bit. Songs like Victimize and Killing Game use a lower tone, almost sludgy feel whereas you also get the other end of the scale in songs like Say Your Last Goodbye and A New Dawn which are both extremely rhythmic and, at times, have a feel of 80’s rock/metal to them as well.
Even with such a wide range of sounds, they never seem anything other than a solid metal band who are making good use of different styles and they never feel like a band who are lost and unaware of what style to play but also, fear not, there are plenty of brutal heavy metal moments to satisfy those who like less variation in their metal. The Extinction is one such track and it also has the catchiest of intros which will have even the naysayers tapping their feet. The Blinding Crusade is another very heavy track which also has a really interesting guitar line that makes up the main riff of the verses. The Blinding Crusade also has a chorus that is sung beautifully for a few seconds before the heaviness hits again and oh man can Mikael sing. He is brilliant and, thankfully, shows it off on many other tracks too such as Grand Eternity and Dark Veil. Both tracks have as much heaviness as the rest of the album but they are just punctuated with the brilliant switch in singing.
It isn’t all about vocals though. The bass of Michel holds all the songs together perfectly though really comes to light more in the lower toned tracks and moments such as in Victimize. The drums of Amit are absolutely exceptional too and are a real highlight. So many songs have stand out drumming, in relation to the rhythmic pace being set and the speed of playing, and songs like Morphosis, Say Your Last Goodbye and The Extinction are just three brilliant examples. Finally David and Anders on guitar are also immense with lines, leads and solos that are edgy and exciting. The solo in Morphosis is brilliant and so is the one in The Blinding Crusade and The Extinction whereas it is the intricate little guitar lines that fade in and out of Dark Veil, Neglected and Grand Eternity that make those songs stand out.
All in all, I think Degradead have done a fantastic job with this album and I am struggling to find fault with it. If anything, I would say that the last two tracks are probably the weakest on the album which isn’t ideal as you hope for a big, epic finish. That isn’t to say they aren’t good, even very good, but they just aren’t as exceptional as some of the earlier tracks.
Great album from a band who have become a firm favourite of mine. They are willing to experiment a little but know when to stop. Willing to push a few boundaries without being stupid. The vocals are some of the best in metal, genuinely. Their songs are a mixture of brutally heavy and beautifully melodic and every step in between. This is a great metal album.
Recommended track – Morphosis
Degradead – Degradead (Metalville)