April 16, 2008 | | 3

Engel, Absolute Design

After a couple of demos and a split release, to say there was ome hype behind this eventual debut album is an understatement. Produced by Anders Friden of In Flames fame, Absolute Design may not fall flat, but it hasn’t quite lived up to its high expectations. Utilizing various elements of melodic death metal, Engel also throws in a few keyboards, clean vocals and harmonizing ingredients to create a dynamic sound that’s a fairly safe, middle of the road path.

With the band’s pedigree featuring ex-members of The Crown and Evergrey, I would have expected a bit more in terms of song structure and innovative elements. Instead the band seems content with striving for a sound that’s, for lack of a better descriptor, commercially appealing. That said Absolute Design is far from mediocre and there are some stellar moments on this disc, but overall it doesn’t hit quite as hard as many of us had hoped.

In Splendour
The album’s first track starts off with a catchy and memorable riff in conjunction with heavy drums before the vocals kick in. The vocals start out as a hardcore shout for a few lines along with chugging guitar work and staggered drums. The chorus is cleanly sung, but is also combined with layered growls and shouts. The interplay between the clean vocals and the grows make for a rich and deep sound.

Casket Closing
“Casket Closing” starts off with chugging, moshy riffs and beefy drumming. The riffs quickly depart for softly spoken/sung vocals before reappearing again with a cleanly sung chorus. So far the album has taken In Flames brand of melodic death metal further along the melodic line, separating themselves more from the death metal lineage the band members have. It’s not a bad direction, but it certainly has a different sound than I expected. For instance, this track features elements of alt rock and progressive metal at work throughout it’s three and a half minutes. Not bad, but again, not at all what I expected.

Next Closed Door
This next track starts off with light drumming and guitar work. Softly sung vocals come in and shift to full on cleanly sung alt rock vocals as a few riffs kick in. This one comes in waves, mixing in the softly performed and sung portions with the heavily influenced rock/progressive riffs and tones. This one has commercial radio written all over it.

The Hurricane Season
More rock influence guitar work starts off “The Hurricane Season” as clean vocals come in. At least the chorus on this one hits harder than the previous couple of songs. It’s layered nicely with softer backing vocals. The dominant riff on this one is pretty memorable and catchy.

“Propaganda” opens up with an aggressive bit of riffing and higher paced drums. Once the vocals kick in you immediately get the sense of what this album should have sounded more like. The shouted vocals with the driving riffs work real well together, even with the gruffly sung chorus.

The Paraclete
A melodic and cleanly sung opening to “The Paraclete” transitions the pace from the driving beats of “Propaganda” to a more rock influenced sound. The softly sung vocals on this one are in complete contrast to the last track and give the tracks a disconnected feel. There doesn’t appear to be much of a flow from song to song. There are a few gruff shouts in this one, but not enough for me.

Engel pick up the beat a bit with this next track as galloping riffs meet shouted, gruff vocals. It’s still got a melodic edge to it, but this one’ also got a renewed aggression and urgency. The cleanly sung chorus works well with the main vocal delivery and doesn’t do too much to take from the flow.

“Descend” starts off with a slowly building riff and drum combo for the first 30 seconds or so before shifting to lightly played drums and softly sung vocals. This one sounds like something a band like Finger Eleven would produce. It’s definitely got a more alt rock feel to it. There’s a decent lead just after the three minute mark.

Trial & Error
This next one opens up with burly riffs and drumming with some keyboard noise added for good measure. Once the vocals kick in, I immediately wanted more of this from the band throughout the disc. It’s got a full on aggressive edge, even during the clean chorus, that is missing from much of the disc. The guitar work at the 2:20 mark is raw and crushing.

I’m The One
After the beefy “Trial & Error” Engel gets back into their melodic groove with this next track. Softly sung vocals shift to screamed/shouted chorus and back again.

Calling Out
A thrash influenced bit of guitar work opens up “Calling Out” before it’s quickly swallowed whole by a soaring lead and pummeling drums. Galloping riffs and shouted vocals come into the churning sound. There’s plenty to head bang to with this one — especially the huge breakdown at the 3:00 mark.

Seven Ends
The final song on Absolute Design starts off with a memorable riff and pile driving drumming as the vocals come in. This is a surprisingly strong finish to the album, especially considering that the majority of the music has been much less aggressive than it. The track ends with light keyboard work.

~ ~ ~

Engel’s Absolute Design has a very rich and dynamic production, but certainly falls short of what most metal heads were expecting from the band. It’s heavily influenced by alternative rock and progressive metal and steers well clear of the death metal aspect of its melodic death label. While it doesn’t hit as hard or as aggressive as some of us would have liked, it’s still a well rounded album that leans more to the melodic side of the genre.

Favorite Tracks:
In Splendour
Trial & Error
Calling Out

Additional Notes: