Wednesday 8 April 2020

Album Review: UNDERKING - Amongst The Dead + Ghosts Of The Past

Underking - Amongst The Dead + Ghosts Of The Past
Underking: Ghosts Of The Past (Left) and Amongst The Dead (Right)

Amongst The Dead

01. Exordium
02. Nothing But Bone
03. Deadman
04. The Way Of Man
05. Lowly Dog
06.  Lost Souls
07. Gravedigger

Ghosts Of The Past

01. Hexed
02. Underking
03. Fading Colour
04. Black Lungs
05. Chasing Ghosts
06. To My Death
07. Witch Hammer

Underking is the new project from ex-Rage Cave (read my review of their album here) main-man Maxwell Jeffries, and he has launched with not one, but too albums on the same day.

Ghosts Of The Past takes influence mostly from classic Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, whereas Amongst The Dead is more of an Extreme Metal affair. Maxwell sings on the former, and vocal duties on the latter are handled by Dustin Burmeister.

Looking at Amongst The Dead first, it's definitely one for fans of Hardcore, Metalcore and Death Metal. After the melodic instrumental intro of Exordium, the album kicks off properly with the classic Thrash of Nothing But Bone which has an air of mid-eighties Megadeth, but with a mix of guttural screams and clean vocals from Dustin. It's a diverse track, breaking down into something more 'Black Metal' half-way through, then clawing back to 'Thrash-to-the-finish'. This seamless mix of extreme genres is common throughout the album.

Deadman starts with some gnarly Black Metal guitar work and builds into something a bit bouncier and more Hardcore. This juxtaposition between the two styles works nicely.

There are riffs aplenty throughout this record, with a particularly badass one in The Way Of Man. However, I think the real strength of this album is in the melody, and not in the abundance of well executed brutality. The last song, Gravedigger, utilises more melodic vocals than the others and this serves it well, before venturing into heavier territories.

Amongst The Dead is an interesting and enjoyable release that brings to mind bands like The Haunted, Cancer Bats, Megadeth, Pantera, Soilwork, all with a splash of modern Metalcore.

Ghosts Of The Past is a little closer to my musical tastes, so is my pick of the two. The trick with this kind of music is to keep things sounding fresh and inspirational, as it's very easy to end up writing something that sounds dated, overly familiar, and consequently boring. It's a fine art, which involves maintaining a contemporary edge that may not be obvious to the listener, while staying true to the classic roots. Maxwell has managed to pull this off, and has made something really catchy and relatively original.

My only gripe, albeit a minor one is the vocal mix and production as his vocals are quite high, and in places sound a little awkwardly placed over the top of the instruments at times. As I said, it's only a small issue on what is otherwise a very well put together package.

Opener Hexed has some nice, technical guitar licks and crushing riffs, mixed with melodic vocals. Underking has a similar recipe, and both sound to me a bit like a contemporary version of Angel Witch, which can only be a good thing.

Black Lungs shows a Ghost-meets-Black Sabbath vibe and has one of the biggest guitar riffs on the record. To My Death ups the 'Metal' with some Thrash guitar work and a flurry of double kicks, but the best is saved until last with the Doom-laced melodic epic that is Witch Hammer.

When all is said and done, it's clear that a massive amount of time and effort has gone into this two-album package, and the hard work has paid off. Underking is leagues ahead of your average 'independent local band' release, and on a different level altogether.


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