Well, flash-forward to about a decade later and here I am, with a disc in my hand from a band called Swordmaster titled Postmortem Tales. And would you look at that- explosions on the cover. Go figure.
It's safe to say my past alone propelled me toward this particular album, but I remained curious to discover the actual contents. What lies inside this particular album is at least partially interesting- Swordmaster is apparently a Swedish death-thrash band that made their marks prior to this 1997 studio debut with a black metal themed demo and a split with the Norway-based Zyklon-B. While their genre shift is definitely evident from this record, palpable nuggets of their black metal past are still present in areas like Andreas Bergh's vocal work and the droning ripple of the dual guitars. Upon first listen, I was a bit skeptical of the whole piece and it's nature as an "obscure but boring thrash release". While listening through though I was pleasantly surprised at a variety of satisfying tidbits that did well to throw a wrench into the mix of what would otherwise be a dreadfully monotonous work.
For one, Terror (aka Niklas Rudolfsson) on the skins is quite the piece of work. Owe it to the production (which is quite good for such an indie release) or what have you, but his zealous, machinery-esque drum sound is quite entertaining and fitting, and is heeded by the fact that he is quite impressive with the more rapid fills and tempo changes. Another great part of this album is its surprising eclecticism. Swordmaster not only dabble in death metal and black metal, but also in some more melodic parts such as on 'Blood Legacy' and 'Past Redemption', the band hits some notes that would not be out of place on a power metal album. Such elasticity is extremely refreshing, keeping you on your feet at all times prepared for a different sonic onslaught. The third and final noticeable feature of Postmortem Tales is the above-par songwriting. As previously mentioned, the album has a rather eclectic nature and isn't shy to pull in different metal sounds to create a fun ride. But such eclecticism wouldn't be able to function if it weren't for the songwriting, which is particularly enjoyable due to how fast everything travels. Sometimes it feels almost progressive in terms how many guitar solos and drum fills can be jammed into a simple minute of playing time.
But Postmortem Tales isn't all great, because a few things indeed hamper it. Sometimes the drums and tempo lean a bit too heavily on the thrash 4/4, a metal cliche that haunts even the best of bands. Luckily as stated before, sophisticated drum fills do well to add at least some flavor, as do the melodic guitar solos. Sometimes the vocals can grow a bit cliche as well, but honestly I wouldn't expect much more from a band still clinging a bit to their roots and is still trying to find their sound.
In all, this little gem is a romp that packs quite a punch in some areas. Definitely a punch big enough to give it the edge over much of Swordmaster's peers. I'd say check it out if you've got 45 minutes to spare.
2017 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher
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