Blood Stain Child – Epsilon – 3.5/5
Four years ago I caught a show with the band “Engel,” then being billed as 'the latest big thing in melodeath,' and I came upon the profound realisation that you don't actually have to play metal at all any more to be called melodeath; the 'melodic' aspect giving rise to a new generation of bands and fans who believe that what they're listening to has any real audible connection to the genre it once was; the 'emo' of the decade if you will. So long as there's something resembling a growl and a couple of palm muted guitars chugging you can pretty much play anything and be a part of the growing sub genre, and with the emergence of their new female vocalist, I'd be lying if I could call this melodeath in any shape or form. No, this is far more exciting than that.
The trance 'twist' that has been steadily growing in their music has reached a new peak and I would more readily place this as a danceable trance album – hard trance if you want to be specific – before any other, but for all the catchy pop hooks that make you want to move to the beat like a drunk at a nightclub (because its the only place left that'll pour you another pint), the melodic vocals layered on top with that eurozone trademark use of autotune that you despise but know would sound odd in its absence, there are still the metallic flourishes to remind you of their origins. There are still growls from the bassist, but as the album continues he seems to forget this part, though whilst adding a nice touch of diversity to the track hardly constitutes a deal breaker. The drummer – also a new arrival – comes from the little known 'Youthquake,' which means he's more used to death/thrash drumming and seems constantly vying to push the tempo to go a bit faster, throwing in a blast beat or double kick as if to yell 'come on get moving;' and the guitarist never seems to dislike this idea, occasionally getting annoyed and performing a solo to try and remind people that there are some metal elements still in their self-dubbed genre title of “Trance Metal.”
There are a few genuinely bad tracks in here, tempting you to push that skip button because the autotune is that excessive or the backing beat that nauseating, and the whole album at first glance appears to decline in quality but really it's just incredibly consistent, a quality severely lacking in their last release. The issue instead stems from the fact that for the majority of the tracks there's little that makes them stand out from one another – except for aforementioned atrocities – which for trance is a pretty major problem. It all blends into one another, and except for a few catchy chorus lines – largely in the opening three tracks – the only time you find yourself remembering a track it's for the wrong reason. It's fortunate that this doesn't happen very often, and whilst you might not remember which track is which, it still retains an odd ability to be replayed and not feel old; the sound they've carved for themselves is entirely their own, having now reached a point that there really is no solid base for comparison.
It's all strangely addictive; it's base may be trance but its trance hyped up on meth and then thrown into a mosh pit for good measure; it's the sort of music that would get looks from both sides of the fence, the trance nuts raising an eyebrow as if to ask 'who the fuck can dance this quickly?' whilst the metal fans will take one glance at the vocals and wonder what was really in that last pint they drank. Both sides will loudly exclaim how bad it is, but I wonder how many will secretly be thinking 'actually, this ain't bad.' This is not the best album they could have released, but for all its faults it is the first time I've been unable to properly dissect the influences; they've integrated them all so well that I finally agree that 'Trance Metal' genuinely is the only thing that fits, and witnessing the birth of a sub-genre is always just a little exciting.
Highlights: Forever Free, Electricity, La+
Lowlights: S.O.P.H.I.A., Dedicated to Violator, Merry-Go-Round