Featuring members of Steve Harris’ British Lion band alongside ex members of Devilment, Dearly Beheaded and Filth Season, Dead Soul Communion have a better pedigree than most and they make good on their innate promise with this deeply melodic, yet satisfyingly metallic debut album. Whilst the combined experience of the band might suggest a solid, if predictable piece of work, ‘MMXVII’ succeeds all expectations by drawing from across the metal spectrum and infusing those influences with a strong progressive flavour. It makes for gripping listening that constantly challenges the listener across the course of its eleven, well-recorded tracks.
Dead Soul Communion appear to nail their colours to the mast with opening track ‘my beautiful mistake’, a thrusting track that neatly pairs Edwin Mascorn’s powerful, yet melodic vocals with the urgent riffing of Daniel Finch (Ex Devilment) and Dan Jackson (Ex Devilment). Although full of soaring highs reminiscent of Devin Townsend, there’s also a sting to be found with gruff vocals making an appearance as the track progresses. Even so, the battering ram that is ‘The Communion’ comes as something of a surprise with its gruelling thrash riff, ethereal keyboard passages hinting at a subtle black metal influence (and courtesy of Paul Jensen whose role on the album includes vocals, guitar, bass and keyboards), and monstrous chorus. Similarly, ‘the last grains of sand’ is a full-blooded metal monster which opens with the none-more-apt lyric “they came with fire in the sky”, an apocalyptic vision more than matched by the band’s metallic strum und drang approach. It says much of the band’s experience that the diverse sounds on offer are neatly woven into a coherent whole, and the first thirteen minutes of the album pass in a heartbeat. The first of three, epic-length tracks on the album, ‘Masked Deceiver’ opts for a slow, keyboard-augmented groove that adds yet another string to the band’s bow. The vocals here head into doom-strewn death territory, all layered roars and a slight touch of theatricality that helps to bring the track to life. Set against massive, juddering riffs, the track makes good use of its expanded run time and never fails to engage the attention as it roams free across vast metallic landscapes. With a series of dizzying solos closing ‘masked deceiver’, Dead Soul Communion head straight for the jugular once more with the gargantuan, synth-infused metal of ‘For you’, an ambitious, gloriously over-the-top track that manages to juggle razor-sharp guitars with neo-prog keyboard passages and a hook that could land a whale.
The second half of the album opens with the monumental ‘ghosts’, a ten-minute monster that opens with awkwardly angular, syncopated riffing and deftly interwoven solos. Reminiscent of ‘Systematic chaos’ era Dream Theater, but shorn of the vocal histrionics, it’s a powerful song and it provides an impressively dynamic centrepiece to the album. In contrast, the bizarre gypsy-folk informed death metal of ‘suicide lullaby’ sounds like Gogol Bordello going head-to-head with Dying Fetus and Mushroomhead. It’s possibly even more bizarre than the description suggests and yet the band do, somehow, make it work, although it will undoubtedly have some scratching their heads in bewilderment. Things get back to a semblance of normality with the dark riffing of ‘as dead as it gets’, a doom-laden blast of deathly riffing and growled vocals that digs into Paradise Lost’s ‘gothic’ period for inspiration. No sooner has the listener readjusted to the atmosphere, than the stuttering electronica of ‘chains of division’ rips it all down again as the band head into a weird electro hinterland somewhere between the ravaged noise of Thorns and the sci-groove of Fear Factory. Acoustic guitars appear for the eerie intro of ‘empire’ before the track opts to take a more traditionally metallic path toward the lengthy closing track, ‘the ending’. With spoken-word passages, haunting, clean vocals and a strong progressive edge, it makes for a fine album closer and it leaves the listener more than a little curious as to where Dead Soul Communion are headed next.
‘MMXVII’ is an impressive offering without doubt. Well-produced and satisfyingly varied, it bucks trends with a causal insouciance that makes for gripping listening. At its heart, the album is probably nearest in ethos to Devin Townsend’s work, although specific comparisons are fleeting, and it’s clear that Dead Soul Communion are intent on taking their own path. It’s a lengthy album, clocking in at nearly an hour, and it’s arguable that there are those who, initially drawn in by the frantic riffing of tracks like ‘the communion’, will find the scattershot approach off-putting, but it’s never dull and the band’s technical skills are without question. For those who like their metal varied, ‘MMXVII’ is one of those rare albums that draws upon multiple threads and, in doing so, maintains the interest right to the very end. With the caveat that those who like their metal rigidly defined should exercise caution, this is a highly recommended album that deserves attention. 9
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