Aug 082011

Slytract is a three-man band from Hungary whose new album (their second) is one of the most pleasant discoveries I’ve made this year. I gather from my reading that their 2008 debut, Explanation: Unknown, was a raw mix of thrash and death metal, but the new release, Existing Unreal (which will become available on August 26), stands four-square in the territory of hi-octane melodic death metal, and man, is it an accomplished planting of the flag in that territory.

There are no ho-hum songs on this album — I thoroughly enjoyed every one of them. Because of the mature song construction and the band’s facility in the creation of distinctive melody and rhythm, I looked forward to each track on the third and fourth listens as much as on the first. Though there’s continuity in the band’s stylistic identity from the record’s beginning to its end, most reminiscent to me of the almighty Insomnium (except with more pedal-to-the-floor pacing), each song has its own personality.

In its execution, what makes Existing Unreal a cut above the average MDM offering comes down to one person — Gábor B. Melegh. He provides most of the vocals and he’s the band’s sole studio guitarist (Gyula Czeglédi is the second guitarist when the band plays live). Vocals first: He sounds like Amon Amarth’s Johan Hegg, which means that no matter how high-flying or approachable the melodies may become, the songs have a counter-balancing bestial edge that will scare away all the hipsters and casual metal dabblers, which is just fucking fine by me. (more after the jump . . .)

Guitars next: Melegh is damned impressive. There’s just the right amount of down-tuned distortion in his lead and rhythm work (occasionally spiced with tremolo whirrr), but because balance seems to be the name of this game, his solos have a beautiful, clear tone. The solos on each song, some of which have an Eastern influence in the melodies, are a large part of what made the music stand out to me. As reflexively impressed as I tend to be by blazing shred-fests, Melegh’s solos are more restrained, more soulful, more inflected with progressive tendencies. (Guest soloist Andreas Homa (Hypocrisy) also delivers a nice turn on “My Mist”.)

I’m not saying I don’t get a charge out of displays of “I’mOnSpeedAndYouNeedToHearHowFuckingFastICanPlay”, but when you get a steady diet of that, the more nuanced performance that Melegh provides is a refreshing change.

Besides, there’s already plenty of lethal, full-auto ordinance in these songs, thanks to the tightly synchronized, astutely varied, and usually hell-bent-for-leather propulsion of drummer Tamás Galántay and bassist Szabolcs Zsengellér. They provide a controlled aggression to the music, sometimes executing Fear Factory-levels of quasi-industrial pneumatics, as on”Millenary Venus” and “Behind the Closed”. The rhythms are physically arresting, and when Galántay hits top speed on the double-kicks, as he does on “Null and Void” and “Prevailing Millions”, it really does sound like someone with a heavy trigger-finger on a high-caliber machine-gun.

It turns out that Zsengellér does more than hammer skillfully on the bass. He also provides the biggest surprises on the albums, contributing clean vocals that contrast with Melegh’s ferocity on “Shall They Learn War Any More” and the closing track, “Nexus”. You know how I feel about clean vocals in metal, but although I think both songs would have been just fine without them, Zsengellér has a good voice.

Finally, a parting word about the recording, mixing, and mastering (all done by Mario Jezik of Noiseheadstudios): The album sounds simply stupendous — clean, sharp, powerful, and balanced. It fits this music like a glove.

In a nutshell: Slytract’s Existing Unreal is a beautifully accomplished union of predatory ferocity and hook-laden melody that will make you want to rage and hum along in equal measure. It’s one of the best entries in the melodic death sweepstakes we’ve heard this year. Check out the album’s fourth track, “Prevailing Millions”:

[audio:|titles=Slytract – Prevailing Millions]

And, as a demonstration of the album’s variety, here’s the first song that premiered from the album (via the band’s label on YouTube last week). It’s that final track, “Nexus”, replete with clean vocals and (as far as my depleted hearing can tell) the only noticeable keyboards on the album. It’s not really representative of the musical style on the rest of the album, but it’s still a cool song:

[audio:|titles=Slytract – Nexus]

You can follow Slytract on facebook and on myspaceExisting Unreal will be released on August 26, 2011, by Noiseheadrecords in the EU and by Relapse in the U.S. and should then be available through most music distributors, including Amazon.  According to the band’s Facebook page, orders can be placed now (price is 6 Euro) by e-mail to one of these addresses:

Beginning on October 26th, Slytract will be touring Europe in support of Sweden’s Demonical, who are themselves fantastical.

  35 Responses to “SLYTRACT: “EXISTING UNREAL””

  1. Fuck me! Soo didn’t expect something like this. I read the first sentence and immediately had to skip to the music, whoah! Also, great to see good music coming from Hungary.

    • I am pretty ignorant about Hungarian metal. We’ve only written about three other Hungarian bands — I Divine, Mytra, and Ektomorf — all very different from each other and from Slytract, but all worth hearing. I’m sure there’s a lot more to the scene in that country worth exploring.

  2. Do I see some tentacle in that album cover?
    This sound like some pretty interesting stuff. I’m not sure about the keyboards in the second song, or the clean vocals though. It just sounds half-assed to me. The first song was much better.

  3. I hadn’t thought about it while listening, but the Amon Amarth comparison is surprisingly apt. I don’t think they’re Amon Amarth knock offs, and I definitely think they’re bringing something entirely different, but there is a certain convergence of styles. “Prevailing Millions” is fucking killer.

    The keyboards on “Nexus” are fucking…weird. I hate them, but I like them. They’re so goddamn midi-ish, it’s stupidly cheesy… But when they go away, I want them to come back!!!! Not sure how I feel about the clean vocals. Not bad, but not great either. Kinda…gothy? Yah, this whole song feels like a gothic dance song mixed with metal. It’s not as bad as I think I’m making it sound….but it doesn’t make me feel like I need the album.

    • The more I think about Nexus, the more puzzled I am about why NoiseHead picked this track to post on the net first. It’s the only song on the whole album that includes the musical elements you’re describing. Strange.

  4. I actually liked “Nexus” better. The keyboard riff gives it a sort of folk-metal feel (which as you can probably guess I’m a huge fan of) and I think the combination of harsh/clean vocals works pretty well. As for them sounding like Amon Amarth – I get that. But I wonder if the “sameyness” of a lot of the music we listen to is tired old rehash or trope? Obviously something about the specific combination of sounds that we label as “metal” has a deep-seated (primal?) appeal…deviate from it TOO much and we start getting twitchy and inventing new genres. I’m not saying all bands should sound like Amon Amarth or be afraid to try new things…I’m saying we should stop bitching so much about which band is ripping off who and enjoy the style we’ve all come here together to celebrate.

    • Comparing the sound of a relatively new band to other, better-known bands is almost unavoidable in reviewing or even talking about the music. It’s a way of trying to be descriptive, which is always difficult when using words to describe something meant to be heard. Referring to other bands has its risks, of course — it may suggest that the music is derivative or a re-hash when it really isn’t, and it may be misleading because it’s rare for any band to sound EXACTLY like some other band.

      In Slytract’s case, I got flashes of Amon Amarth, Insomnium, Soilwork, Fear Factory, and some of the thrashier Scandinavian MDM bands, but it was only because from time to time I heard certain riff styles or song constructions or rhythms or vocal qualities that brought those bands to mind — not because Slytract really sounds completely like any of those other bands.

      • Well I didn’t mean YOU specifically… I meant people in general.

        • People that say “This band sucks, they sound just like a combination of Anal Cunt and Nightwish.”

          • Yeah, I see that kind of “critique” a lot in the comments on other sites or on FB. Sometimes I think it’s people trying to show that they know something about metal or have demanding standards, which is fine, but I think is often unfair. Many times it’s true that bands sound very derivative of someone else, but even then it doesn’t mean they aren’t worth hearing. And many times, as you say, the fact that a band uses certain musical elements or styles of playing which we all know (the “tropes” of the genre) doesn’t mean the music is unoriginal at all.

          • My, that’s a scary thouht in and of itself…

        • I know — I was just picking up on the topic, which is an interesting one that I think about frequently.

          • I’m a writer – tropes are on my mind a lot.

            • Let’s run with that analogy. Fiction has many well-defined, well-understood genres, and each genre (eg, mysteries, thrillers, sci-fi, fantasy, romance (gulp), even literary fiction) has recognizable tropes. Much genre fiction is formulaic — readers recognize what’s happening and know basically how the stories will be told — but they dive in to genre books by their favorite or new authors anyway. The best writers add something new, even within recognizable genres, making use of comfortable tropes but either executing them especially well or adding something unexpected and good. I think these same things happen in metal. Does this make sense?

    • don’t think comparisons are bad. In fact, I think they’re good.

      No band is an island, separate from the mainland. (I totally butchered that.) Say that Slytract is like Amon Amarth isn’t saying “OMG! What a rip off!”, it’s more like literary criticism in which similar tropes or themes in new works are explored by comparing them to older, more established works. I think it’s really important to ground everything in that sort of meta-understanding.

      Besides, I find those connections strengthen the underlying movement of the music. If I hear Amon Amarth in a band, I bring all those associations to the new work. It’s more interesting to see how Band B takes something from Band A and contrasts or furthers it.

      Also, in grad school, I wrote a paper comparing a Japanese punk band call Anti Feminism to an early 20th century Dadaist/anarchist poet called Hagiwara Kyojiro, and it was awesome. I rickrolled the conference where I presented the paper. Unfortunately, everyone in the audience was too damn old to get it. >(

  5. First off, I like what I hear. The keyboards in “Nexus” don’t sound like cheese to me… okay, not too much. Then again, my musical diet may have a say in that. The keys are where they belong – not wandering over the place or overwhelming the rest of the song.

    Now, I didn’t hear Amon Amarth at first when I played the first track, Fuck, I don’t know if anyone really came to mind for me. But some bands do get a “hey, they sound like…” response. Though unfair at times, it’s hard to NOT come to that conclusion with some music. The key is to not make the comparison the only selling or keep-away point when talking about a band. Sometimes we need to see/read/hear a reference point, sometimes we need to use one. Saying a band sounds similar to another may not always mean the same thing to everyone, but it’s the start of an introduction.

    One thing I learned in the journalism classes I took years ago (and from doing reviews for a couple years) is that it’s not a bad idea to assume that your entire audience could be lost without some sort of direction. Well, that’s what I took from what I was told and what I did – throwing out terms without anything to go with them doesn’t do any good. What if someone were to only say that an album was brutal, technical or any of the other descriptors we commonly use and not elaborate in any way? What kind of brutal? What kind of tech? What should I expect when I listen to this song/album? Since no one has the same exact tastes in music or all the same albums, we’re going to have different ideas about something we read or hear. By using another bands name, we give a face to what we’re hearing; the best bands are able to put their own face on and stand on their own name. Not all do, but that doesn’t mean a band that doesn’t become a litmus test for those that follow sucks. It’s just that there’s so much more out there and wading into the battlefield without some ammo is foolish.

    So, comparisons play a vital role. We may not all know the reference material, but it gives us a good idea where to start, especially if there are other bands that share the same sound. Maybe I’ve never heard Putrid Fugue before, but I could be familiar with Vagina Dentata, who recorded their masterpiece allbum Labia Cavity Syndrome in the same studio with the same sound engineer and have lyrics plagiarized from gynecology reference books instead of mortuary science texts. I’ll probably still have a good idea of what to expect when I see that the Bob Saget Slamdance Experience sounds like a ripoff of Putrid Fugue with some deathstep thrown in for flavor. Just a hunch.

    Of course, every genre of metal has its usual suspects – or sometimes scapegoats. Anything prog is bound to get compared to Dream Theater. Black metal may evoke – and not in a good way for some – Cradle Of Filth. Progressive death metal may bring Opeth to mind. Gothic stuff (or anything with a female singer who can, you know, sing well) is probably going to get compared to Nightwish. The soundtrack to the apocalypse is going to bring Rebecca Black to mind. You get the idea. And in these cases, it’s hard to use these bands as a reference point, because people are so used to hearing a certain something from them and when they hear another band do the same, that’s all they focus on.

    Okay, it’s 4 in the morning and I’m probably rambling at this point, but I hope you get what I think I’m trying to say.

    • You should do more writing at 4 in the morning. Makes sense to me. Oh, and I would like to give five stars to this:

      “Maybe I’ve never heard Putrid Fugue before, but I could be familiar with Vagina Dentata, who recorded their masterpiece allbum Labia Cavity Syndrome in the same studio with the same sound engineer and have lyrics plagiarized from gynecology reference books instead of mortuary science texts. I’ll probably still have a good idea of what to expect when I see that the Bob Saget Slamdance Experience sounds like a ripoff of Putrid Fugue with some deathstep thrown in for flavor. ”

      I am so sorry we didn’t make a more serious effort to contact Vagina Dentata and BSSE for the tour, but the most recent contact info I had for them was the Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, CA, and the Lompoc Federal Correctional Complex, respectively.

      • I’d pay some half okay money to see the Bob Saget Slamdance Experience.

        Especially if Bob Saget slamdances his dick into both of the Olsen Twin’s mouths simultaneously.

        • fuck that, kimmy gibbler is where its at.

          BSSE 4 lyfe

          • I nearly choked on my gum when I came to “BSSE 4 lyfe”, and no one around to perform a Heimlich maneuver. You nearly single-handedly killed off NCS. I hope you’re proud of yourself. 🙂

          • Have you heard that bootleg of “Gibbler Nibbler” yet?

            It’d be awesome to hear a proper studio version of it, but the drummer and triangle player (who doesn’t get to play very often, sad because he’s fucking awesome) can’t agree on tempo. Maybe they need to lure producer Bruce Dickinson out of retirement to get them back on direction, and hopefully not have to swtich to cowbell instead to get the job done.

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