Eucharist - A Velvet Creation - 4/5
Melodeath is an unfortunate sub-genre. Most of us here know it as a collective of watered-down bands playing something that resembles traditional heavy metal with some sugary NWOBHM-style leads and weak harsh vocals flung in, with the majority of the blame for the dumbing-down of the genre being heaped upon later At The Gates. What most people don't know is that once upon a time, before At The Gates decided to sell out and create one of the most horrifyingly overrated and boring albums in metal, is that melodic death metal was actually pretty cool. The "melodic" bit was still there, but unlike the majority of the In Flames/Arch Enemy/Dark Tranquility wannabes, the "death metal" was also there. Eucharist's 1993 debut album, "A Velvet Creation" is a great example of such.
Eucharist sound very crispy, thanks to the very raw, almost black metal, production on this album. Drums, vocals, and guitars are comparable to pocky sticks: not too large or thick, but crunchy, but with that really satisfying crispy snap when you break it in two. The bass, unfortunately, seems to be a bit under-represented here. You can hear it, but only if you strain yourself a bit. The drumming has a loud, sharp tone, louder than the guitars but somehow avoids drowning it out.
Eucharist's playing style here is similar to At The Gates circa "The Red in the Sky is Ours", although their approach is far less complex and layered. The guitar-work tends to come in two varieties, the palm-muted variety and the tremolo-picked variety, the latter of which is responsible for some pretty crazy lead-guitar work. The former has a mid paced traditional heavy metal feel, usually used to take up the space between tremolo picked sections. While this may seem to imply that they're boring riffs, they're there more to space out and provide a contrast for the tremolo bits. Usually, they help to build up tension and "prepare" the listener for the incoming leads, and are fine riffs in and of themselves. And boy, these guys really know how to write tremolo picked leads. Those melodies are basically the star of the show, and weave around the listener, suddenly stopping, picking up speed, and sometimes even have a neo-classical feel now and then, similar to Sentenced's "North From Here". "My Bleeding Tears" almost sounds like a mix of the fore-mentioned Sentenced album and "The Red In The Sky is Ours". On songs like "Floating" and "Greeting Immortality", the tremolo picking is done with a thrash style of direction, although it never sacrifices fluidity for brutality.
Another star of the show here is the bass, which provides all sorts of nice little counter-melodies to the guitars, but unfortunately, as stated previously, the production pushes it under the radar. If you can hear it, you'll discover a force that compliments the guitars nearly perfectly, almost like in a tech-death record, with all the right bass licks going off with pin-point accuracy at the exact right moments, making the whole musical meal juicier than usual. The drumming, like the first At The Gates album, has a very excited feel, like Bill Ward, but if he played death metal. He combines double-bass with mid-paced death metal drumming, expertly switching up tempos, using heavy loads of double-bass to accent tremolo picked riffs or build up tension, all the time while throwing in various little "drum-licks". He might come off as your generic melodeath drummer at first, but give it a few more listens and he'll be making any major name Gothenbourg metal drummer seem like a talentless hack compared to himself. See the title track for a great example of his drumming prowess. Finally, there are the vocals, which are less of death "growls" and more of howls at the higher bit of the mid-range. In fact, sometimes the vocalist sounds like Daniel Corchado of The Chasm, especially on the first track. The passion and power he puts into his performance is evident in how savage the vocals sound at times. On any track, there is a genuine feel that he's basically blowing his throat open, with his thick and throat tone.
The album is not perfect though. There are two slightly disappointing tracks. "The Religion of the Blood-Red Velvet" is very restrained compared to the rest of the album, relying mostly on slow-paced power-chords and some pretty meh leads linked to the riffs. It's not a terrible track, but it pales in comparison to the rest of the album. The title track, while it does have its share of the insane melodies this band is known for, also has one really annoying guitar lead at the beginning that almost reaches Dragonforce levels of annoyingness at times. While I personally got used to it after a while, others may have a hard time getting around it. Fortunately, these two small screw-ups pale in comparison to songs like the seven-minute "Floating", with its beautiful solos, "My Bleeding Tears" with its increasingly epic feel and some of the best leads in the whole of metal, and the straight-at-your-neck aggression of "Into the Cosmic Sphere".
Fans of both old-school death metal and melodic death metal in general should do themselves a favour. Delete/sell/burn all your shitty In Flames/At The Gates/Arch Enemy/Amon Amarth/Dark Tranquility albums and give this monster a go. This is a huge change of pace from the melodeath most people know, but it harkens back to a time when "melodic" and "death metal" were one rather than marketing terms used to appeal to teenage kids who still probably think that the fore-mentioned melodeath bands are the pinnacle of death metal.
Highlights: My Bleeding Tears, Floating, Into The Cosmic Sphere, Once my Eye moved Mountains
By J. Chan