Finally, a newer melodic death metal band that understands what it’s all about. Gormathon’s Naplam Records debut, Following The Beast, blasts off right out of the gate with heavy riffs, great death metal vocals and solid guitar harmonization. The best part about the album is that the band knows that the harmonized guitar should be there to complement the tracks, not define them. Too often, contemporary melodic death metal bands overdo the melodic portion of the music leaving very little actual death metal.
The same can be said for clean vocals. I usually am not a fan of clean vocals in this particular genre of metal. It tends to water down the music’s overall heaviness. However on Following The Beast, the clean vocals provided by lead singer Tony Sunnhag have a great rasp that adds to the overall grittiness of the music. They are only used sparingly, usually in the chorus sections while the rest of the track contains excellent low register gutturals. Sunnhag has an amazing range for a death metal singer as he even adds in some high pitched vocals on songs like “Break The Chains” and “Silent Walk”.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a couple of instances where the clean vocals that I loved so much just didn’t work. The choruses on “World of Sin” and “Into Oblivion” felt a bit too mainstream reminding me vaguely of Rob Zombie. Beyond that, there is really nothing else that one could possibly complain about with regard to this record.
Following The Beast sounds like a mash up of the best elements of Amon Amarth and Clayman-era In Flames with plenty of Gormathon’s own signatures sprinkled in. Although the album follows the 1990’s melodic death metal blueprint almost perfectly, the band also knows how to change up the formula a bit without things feeling out of place. “Break The Chains” is a slower paced song with a bit more groove to it. “Remember” has a very different sound. I would classify it as a death metal ballad, if there is such a thing. It is lead by slow tremolo guitar picking, more deliberate drumming and an amazing soaring solo. The vocals here are also interesting as they are guttural but are done in a way that feels more like clean singing. You’ll have to check out the song to fully grasp what I am trying to illustrate. “Absence of Trust” makes use of keyboards to open and close the song and offers the most guitar harmonization and lead overlays on the album. It even contains a really heavy breakdown portion . Finally, “Warlords of Doom” is a super fast track that seems to be influenced a lot by hardcore punk. Each of these tracks offer something slightly different but they still fit into the framework laid out by the rest of the songs on the album.
Gormathon also shows a willingness to put a huge emphasis on drumming. Many metal bands these days are almost scared about even considering this. They would rather have the drums take a back seat to highly over distorted guitars rather than take any kind of risk. Gormathon is unafraid. Drummer, Tony Sandberg, really pounds hard on the double bass. Every hit of the drums is so meticulous helping to amp up the heaviness of each song on Following The Beast. “Land of the Lost”, “Remember”, “Warlords of Doom” and “Silent Walk” are just a few of the songs that truly show off Sandberg’s amazing musical contributions to the record.
I cannot say enough positive things about Following The Beast. The songs are all top notch, especially “Remedy”, “Land of the Lost”, “In Benevolence”, Absence of Trust” and “Remember”. Gormathon is a metal band that comprehends how to execute a record that shows appreciation for the architects of the subgenre while still offering some cutting-edge twists. Nothing on the album goes too overboard. Every element and nuance fits well and has a purpose. Even the most critically acclaimed melodic death metal album of the year, Insomnium’s Shadows Of The Dying Sun, can’t make any of these claims.
Nearly every critic has been raving about Insomnium’s latest record. Many have even called it the best melodic death metal album of 2014 and one of the best metal albums of the year but it lacks the cohesion and overall musical appeal of Following The Beast. If Shadows Of The Dying Sun is the standard for 2014, Following The Beast just blew that standard right out of the water. Gormathon has given the world the best melodic death metal album of the year so far. Now, does that mean it has what it takes to compete for number one on our list of The Best Metal Albums of 2014? The answer to that question is a resounding, YES! Make sure to stay tuned and see how things hash out as 2014 begins to come to a close.
Following The Beast will be released on October 7, 2014 via Napalm Records. Make sure you take a listen when you get a chance and then give us your thoughts on the album in our comments section.