Saturday, September 01, 2012

Review: Entrench - Inevitable Decay

Entrench are a Swedish thrash metal group that formed in 2005. Since the release of their debut full-length album Inevitable Decay in 2011, the group have been gaining a steady incline of attention in the pits of the underground. What does this debut album have to offer, and how does it stack up in the thrash metal world in general?

Genre: Thrash Metal
Label: Abyss Records
Release Date: September 20th, 2011
  1. As Dawn Breaks
  2. Debt of Sorrow
  3. Portrait of a Phobia
  4. Into Oblivion
  5. Doubt What's Left
  6. Blind Illusion
  7. Crossing the River
  8. Where Only Ruins Remain
Total Playtime: 39 minutes, 32 seconds

Rating: 8.5/10

Entrench are a Swedish thrash metal group that formed in 2005. Since the release of their debut full-length album Inevitable Decay in 2011, the group have been gaining a steady incline of attention in the pits of the underground. What does this debut album have to offer, and how does it stack up in the thrash metal world in general?

When taking a look at the physical album itself, there is a clear and defined 1980's style tied into the packaging, which was done by Joel Sundin. If one didn't have any prior knowledge of Entrench it would be easy to assume that this CD was released thirty years ago... and this feature only enhances the genuine lo-fi production present in the content itself. The vocals are encompassed in a very mild echo, the drums are raw and gritty, and the guitars are slightly muffled. These features combined make for a great old school thrash experience, however it seems to be found more commonly in material within the past few years as somewhat of a wave of classic thrash revival. The mixing is flawlessly consistent and keeps the drums pressed to the back of the material, while the rhythm and lead guitars sit ontop of one another, the lead guitar slightly more dominate, and the bass is barely audible which is commonplace in the thrash genre.

The vocals are the most prominent track throughout the content, and they are very passionate and aggressive. It's clear to hear that the vocalist, Fredrik Pellbrink, believes in his message and presses to convey it to the listener using tormented growls and screams in well placed areas and an overall agonized tone. It's also fresh to hear some thrash that doesn't center itself around one or two lyrical themes and instead diversifies itself. At times, the vocal style can come off as more death metal inspired rather than thrash and is reminiscent of what would be found in classic material of the genre, this gives the overall album a slight death metal undertone. Another contributing factor to this undertone would be the drumming which sticks mostly to heavy one-two blast beats, sometimes throwing in hi-hat crashes for variance. The drums work in sync with the rhythm guitar to help keep the material heavy since the bass is hardly present.

The first two tracks, "As Dawn Breaks" and "Debt of Sorrow", start Inevitable Decay off to a frenzied beginning and the content only continues to heat up from there. "Doubt What's Left" is as fast as it gets on this album, and it's enough to send the listeners' head spinning with a fantastic flurry of inhumanly accelerated  riffs and powerful blast beats that pierce through the background. This track shows just what Entrench are capable of in terms of audible velocity and at the same time they manage to keep a tight and fluid structure. "Into Oblivion", "Doubt What's Left", "Where Only Ruins Remain" and "Portrait of a Phobia" are the more noteworthy tracks given. "Portrait of a Phobia" sets a very creepy and dark atmosphere with an slow, eerie, high string lead intro that gets backed up by a slow, chugging rhythm riff. Gradually the two guitars merge into the same riff, the lead playing slightly higher than the rhythm. The slower style of this track helps to contrast against the two ear igniting tracks that come before it, however the song doesn't stay slow for long. Instead of simply exploding into unholy pandemonium, it ramps itself up gradually until you go from casually nodding your head and air drumming the beats to windmilling with chaotic frenzy by the time the solo erupts and the song begins fading out. Too bad though, it would've been great to get another 10-20 seconds of that tasty solo that ends the song on a cliff hanger.

The lead guitar is strong throughout the eight tracks present and sets most of the hooks, which are incredibly catchy. The steady, more often than not palm muted, backing rhythm guitar provides a heavy and dependable foundation that allows the lead guitar to branch out into innovative one-string benders which are abundant throughout the song compositions. The compositions themselves are fairly uniform, and it's good to hear thrash that actually has an underlying structure which often brings the song full circle in a verse-chorus-verse kind of way, without always having the same vocal verse-chorus-verse structure. Sprinkled over these structures are various solos, all of which are unique and done tastefully with fluid skill. The only issue with the guitars are that they share the same tone. Given the choice of classic production values, there would be more depth provided if the guitar tones varied more than they do. Often, it isn't the tone of the two guitars that change and is rather that the lead guitar plays a few frets higher than the rhythm guitar, or on a higher string variance of the same chord.

Going back to the physical look of the album, the artwork is creepy and desolate, augmented with little bones and skulls in the fire in the center of the art piece. It isn't until the last track, "Where Only Ruins Remain", that it's clear the artwork depicts a visual based off of the lyrics from that particular song. This is a nicely added touch that brings more life to the audible content, a trait too often lost in a lot of recent release.

Overall, Entrench have released a powerful debut album with an authentic old-school vibe, both physically and audibly. The leads will embed themselves into the listeners' psyche and the consistent structure of the material keeps everything flowing smoothly. The lyrics tell many stories that are worth paying attention to and deserve an in-depth listen and/or read through. The solos are fast, electrifying and intense. Inevitable Decay is highly recommended, especially for those looking for newer material with a good classic touch to it that doesn't feel forced or gimmicky. You can pick the album up from Abyss Records for only $10.00 right here.

Physical Copy Provided by: Entrench


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