Ciao and welcome to the second part of our three Italian flavoured reviews. As outlined in my review of Saints Trade 'Robbed in Paradise' (cleverly linked here), we have been contacted by Atomic Stuff, an Italian promotion agency who have asked us to look at a few of their artists. Next up is Death Metal act Embryo, another Italian act who have recently released this self-titled album (their third official release it total). They have toured a lot of Continental and Eastern Europe, and their influences are people like Meshuggah, Devin Townsend/Strapping Young Lad and Fear Factory; as well as a complete disregard to follow a specific style or perception of music and how it should be formed. From their press release, it also states that Francesco Paoli from Fleshgod Apocalypse played all the drums on this album. If I am honest, this is an album that I feel Chris Jermyn from our blog team would have been better suited to review as he is our resident fan of this genre; but he left it to me and it is now time to see what the fuss is all about.
Starting the album is “An Awkward Attempt” which has a frantic drumbeat at its heart, strong keyboards and a vocal delivery that can be compared to people like Chris Barnes of Cannibal Corpse. It goes between groove metal, death metal and part industrial in places; it is not short of energy and it sounds like there is a war going on with every riff that is released upon the audience. The ironically titled “The Pursuit of Silence” follows on and there is no fear of an acoustic guitar in sight; if anything there is more menace with the keyboards playing out of time with the rest of the band, giving the whole song a sinister edge. The breakdown and slow grind in the middle of the song reminds me in places of prime period Cradle of Filth, mixed up with some Pissing Razors; it really should not be working for me, but it is hard not to be impressed with the aggression on display here. “Manipulate My Consciousness” is the third song of the album and it changes the mood. Following their principle of mix/match playing behaviour, you have a groove metal chunking riff mixed in with some atmospheric keyboards, drums that sound like they have been played by a machine powered on lava and a bass guitar that keeps everything together. It is a decent number that keeps the album ticking along nicely.
“Insane Lucidity” starts off with keyboards and various electronic noodles a-la Terminator going on in the background, just before the band jump in with another industrial/death metal hybrid which is out of time to the keyboards. It is very effective in creating the mood of unease for the listener, it is not by design meant to be something that you relax to; it is meant to be confrontational and aggressive to their audience, like a slow grinding axe being scrapped across the face of your victim – it is not pretty, but it is not meant to be. Fifth track is “The End of the Beginning” which comes across like an early Dimmu Borgir song, it has something about it that sounds as if there is hell to be paid and they are going to supply the sound track. I will be honest, this track has not worked as well as the previous tracks; it is still well played, but it just seemed to pass me by if I am honest. After this we have the title track (and band name) “Embryo” which slows things down, without taking away any of the threatening menace, true it does start with a strange drum pattern but the music itself is not moving faster than a vampiric threatening walk. When the drummer realises that he is out of time with everyone, it makes for a better song to be honest; but this being Embryo you get the feeling that they like making things more interesting for themselves, however it still comes together in a strange way that makes this one of the stand out track of the album. "The Touch of Emptiness" is the seventh album which goes into back into faster territory, but still combining the strange timings (this time supplied by the keyboards for the most part). It is a standard melodic death metal piece, well performed and nothing bad to say about it at all.
"The Door to the Abyss" keeps up the more melodic death metal side of their sound again here, it is a clinical mixture of riffs, spooky keyboards and the backbone of the band (bass & drums) sound extremely tight on here and it is a killer number; out of all the songs of the album, it is the one that best represents all of their styles and it just feels like it has all came together in the most exquisite way for them at this point. "My Pounding Void" follows on like the restraining lock has been torn off and they are just going for the kill, as this album goes it is one of the more aggressive numbers on an album that is not for the light hearted if truth be told; it just seems to take the level of malevolent violence to a new level and keeps up the effective work that has already been shown on this album. This leads onto the penultimate track "Fragments of Utopia" which is brings the groove riff back a little bit to the sound, it drops down the intensity a little compared to the last few numbers but throwing in some death metal parts to the song makes it an interesting precursor to the final song of the album. That song is called "I Am Pure Hate" which starts with a slow atmospheric keyboard moment before the rest of the band unleashes hell onto the world and send the few remaining cobwebs from the listener into the either. At first I was worried they would have ended it with an atmospheric spooky piece, but thankfully they have went for all-out war to bring this album to a fitting close.
As I am not the biggest death metal fan in the world, I was a little worried that I would be starting any Anglo-Italian relationship with a review that was not too kind; thankfully I can report that this is a really clever, intelligent album that actually ticks all of the button I like for this type of music. I am not too sure that the groove metal sound was intentional for the band, but it adds something to this music; I do hold that our reviewer Jerm would have been better suited to review this, but I am actually glad he did not as I would have missed out on saying that even at this early stage of 2015, this is one of the best metal albums I have heard for a long time. It might not be for everyone, but for me it is brilliant.
8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart
Top track - The Door to the Abyss
You can purchase the digital version through Amazon here - there was a link for the CD version, but the cover coming through was not the same so I am not sure that Amazon is linking to the correct page for the physical release
You can visit the Embryo website here, it has a link to their web store which you can use to purchase the physical album
You can also follow their activities on Facebook here
You can stream the album on Spotify here
For our Deezer users, here is a link for you