I certainly don’t pretend to be an historian of “groove metal” as a genre. But when I think about it at a high level, two evolutionary pathways come to mind. One line runs through bands such as Pantera and perhaps, in a more extreme vein, early Sepultura, encompassing music that’s primal, relatively stripped-down, visceral, generally mid-paced, and melodic. That line detoured through things like nu-metal and, in the more modern era, runs through bands such as Lamb of God.
I think of the second line as one that started with Meshuggah, a more rhythmically complex, highly syncopated, speedier, and less melodic kind of music that in the modern era branched off into sub-genres such as djent and the less easily classifiable kind of metal created by Gojira.
Sweden’s Deathember proudly carry the “groove metal” flag in their debut album Going Postal, but they represent an intersection of those two lines I’m hypothesizing. They tap into the infectious, primal appeal of the first line, but their music also incorporates unusual rhythmic patterns and technically demanding instrumental interaction of the kind that’s closer to the second line. It’s definitely not djent or any other form of overt Meshuggah worship, yet it’s highly percussive music, grounded in the power of beat and rhythm, while also incorporating infectious melodies. It’s a very appealing combination.
Going Postal is a high-energy album. There are moments when the pacing slows a little, especially in “The Deprivation” (a track that includes guest vocals by Daniel Ädel of Vildhjarta and Uneven Structure), but the songs mainly come at the listener with the throttle wide open. It’s an album dedicated to giving you a wild ride and a galvanizing electric charge right in the sweet spot of your brain stem.
Although the music is frequently complex and the instrumental performances tight and precise, the songs don’t come off as cold or machine-like; Going Postal has heart and passion. Part of that comes from Simon Tarasewicz’ harsh vocals, which are of the hold-nothing-back variety. They’re extremely varied, usually in a mid-range howl but frequently rising up into scalding shrieks or dropping down into cavernous roars. Sometimes they’re multi-tracked and layered; always, they’re balls-to-the-wall.
But there are other reasons why the music doesn’t come off as cold and calculating despite the plethora of tightly integrated start-stop rhythms, stuttering riffs, and frenetic time-signature changes: The album is loaded with “what the fuck did they just do?” moments. While songs like the title track and “Quietly” incorporate extended segments of repeating, off-kilter pneumatic groove, you’ll find melodic ambient sounds floating through “Spirals” as well as a darting, flashing guitar solo. “Repeat & Remind” begins with a playful, immediately infectious combo of skittering riffs and nimble percussion and also includes some delicious, rumbling bass-picking.
“Hailing Down” drills deep with grinding tremolo’d guitars and then ignites with a clean guitar solo (courtesy of a guest appearance by Ralph Santolla of Deicide and Obituary) that comes in writhing and snakelike and then turns into a blazing piece of shred. And the closing track, “Amnesiac”, which may be the most addictive piece on the whole album, incorporates pulsing electronic beats along with a boatload of rapid-fire riffing and anvil-pounding low-end rhythms.
The clearest evidence, however, that Deathember’s ambitions extend beyond the primal appeal of machine-precise groove comes in a trilogy of songs that make up the album’s mid-section — “Let Us Flip A Few Pages Back”, “Where I Evade”, and the afore-mentioned “The Deprivation”. These are really three parts of a single song (and enumerated as such) that flow seamlessly from one to the next. There you’ll find shimmering synthesizers (or is it a guitar that sounds like a synth?), tremolo-guitar needling, funky bass leads, and swarming, finger-tapped guitar soloing — along with a phalanx of machine-gun riffs and punchy rhythms.
The production quality of the album is just right for this intricate style of heavy-grooved metal. It’s sharp-edged and crisp (the clanging tone of the guitars and bass reminded me of the sound on one of my favorite albums, Hunter, by A Life Once Lost). There’s also a great, balanced mix that allows every instrument to shine — and all the performers really do shine, from guitarists Staffan Birkedal and Rikard Bonander, to bass-player Pontus Wicklander, to drummer Elias Ryen-Rafstedt.
Going Postal is a blast of high-octane fun, the kind of metal that will get you moving and put a big smile on your face at the same time as it causes you to marvel at the band’s instrumental skill. It deserves to be spread like the plague.
You can download Going Postal from Bandcamp via the link below, and from the same page you can order it as a limited edition digipak CD, which includes a bonus track. Below the links you’ll find the album stream and the official video for Going Postal’s first single, “Quietly”.