(DGR reviews the debut album by The Resistance, out now on Armoury Records.)
Everyone around these here parts knows I enjoy a bit of the melo-death scene, so it shouldn’t come as a shock that we were eventually going to come around to talking about The Resistance. It’s been a pretty good year for that scene, with a couple of groups firing on all cylinders for the first time in a long time and just dishing out absolutely amazing discs. When word got out that Jesper Stromblad of In Flames was involved in a group called The Resistance way back in late 2011/early 2012, I immediately perked up. I felt that he was responsible for a lot of the speed that In Flames had, and when he left, there was a big gap in that band’s sound. It seemed that he took the speed-playing with him to bands like Dimension Zero and now The Resistance.
The Resistance are something of a melo-death supergroup, composed of former (or once former and now current) members of groups such as The Haunted, In Flames, Carnal Forge, and many others. They’re a group formed of long-time veterans, so it’s not surprising how quickly the “supergroup” tag became affixed to them during the media blitz that lead up to this album’s release. Scars, which hit in late May, is a very solid slab of melo-death, but it also includes some other interesting ingredients as well.
Scars kicks off with “Clearing The Slate”, a pretty loud statement about what The Resistance are up to. It’s a quick, roughly two-minute flame-blast of pretty straightforward death. It sounds as if it were designed to rid the listener of prior expectations based on the previous band memberships of this group’s roster. However, things change the moment the vocals kick in, as The Haunted’s Marco Aro roars throughout the whole song, and by extension, the whole CD.
Aro’s voice is pretty goddamned distinctive, so anyone who owns a copy of One Kill Wonder or The Haunted Made Me Do It are going to recognize him immediately. It has to be something of a curse, because the moment you hear him, any of the music that he may be attached to immediately becomes the earlier projects he was attached to, so in a very twisted way The Resistance wind up becoming a continuation of Aro’s prior work.
I’ve always liked his vocal style because he’s one of the few frontmen who sound believably angry without descending into the total psychotic realm. Scars puts him in a variety of different musical situations too, some of which have a bit of punk influence and some that unfortunately sound like standard melo-death tunes — and it’s the couple of those that people will come down on incredibly hard. That’s the issue with most supergroups though, isn’t it? By adding the prefix “super-” to their description, we find ourselves subconsciously adding “super” to the quality of the music even when the opening track asks us to just clear the slate. So the band can never just put out a “good” disc or something that I would usually describe as being red meat for fans.
We figure that all these guys from good to great bands should combine like voltron into some sort of incredible music machine, but rarely does it work that way. The Resistance sometimes play it pretty safe with Scars, and that has some serious positives and negatives with almost no grey area in between. At their worst, you can see why people constantly repeat the mantra that the Gothenburg sound has stagnated. Some songs on Scars unfortunately toe the line by bringing along some repeated riffs that many bands have already pulled from the well, making the music seem bland. When they do nail it though, which is more often than not, you get an aggressively brutal slab of melo-death — hatred laser-focused on the outside world instead of the usual pseudo-philosophy and perseverance. It is music that you want to fight to.
Musing aside, though, I’m absolutely not kidding about actually wanting to kick some ass to this. The songs that do play out to be 1-2-punch adrenaline rushes make you want to scream along with every word. What little melody is presented by the two guitarists (both ex-In Flames, and Dimension Zero – no clue on the status of that latter group) is quickly washed away in the relentless thrash riffing that follows. “Clearing The Slate”, the Discharge/Disfear-esque tune “To The Death”, “Expand To Expire”, and “I (Will) Die Alone” — which are also some of the best Haunted tunes written in a while (I don’t know if that’s good or bad for the current incarnation of said group) — “Imperfected” and its slower pace with a very catchy chorus, “The Serpent King”, and “Eye For An Eye” are all worth the trip through Scars. Yeah, as I mentioned above, there’s the occasional whiff, but this group of seven songs makes The Resistance worth your time.
“I (Will) Die Alone” is one of those songs that doesn’t come off as misanthropic, but more like it has a grudge against someone, and even though it’s a closing track you just feel the rush off of that tune. In a way, it’s a good choice to close out the proceedings, because it leaves you immediately fired up to go for another round with Scars.
“Eye For An Eye” is another one that just has a hammering chug of a riff that feels appropriate for the ass-kicking it promises, and ass-kicking is especially delivered on the drumming front. Christofer Barkensjö has quite the roster of bands on his resume and he’s the unsung one in The Resistance. The guy brings a solid beat to even the most generic riff and makes it stand out. The drum production is quite good, too. The bass drums in particular have a solid-as-hell boom, so when he really gets rolling, it makes the low end of the disc feel super-thick.
Scars is a mission statement by a new band who have the advantage of a really experienced group of guys in the line-up. Anyone (like myself) who really enjoys this genre will find a lot to like here, and the seven songs I listed above are absolutely strong recommendations for everyone to check out. The biggest issue is that sometimes Scars plays it a little too safe, and that is where they may lose some people. Despite being made up of a really strong batch of musicians, when The Resistance make red meat specifically for fans (and that they no doubt enjoy creating), it just doesn’t stand out that much.
But Scars contains some very strong flashes of heaviness and promise, and because of that it’s a fun disc to listen to. There’s a legit anger here and an obsession with beating the hell out of the listener and each song’s specific targets, and the rush from it is undeniable. It’s definitely one of those bad-days-at-work discs and will likely rank among my top three for that this year.