(This is the third and final subpart of a fourth installment in DGR’s effort to catch up on reviews of 2019 releases he wants to recommend, with this 3-part fourth post devoted to melodic death metal. Today the subject is the third full-length by the Swedish band To Dust, which was released in March of this year.)
The presence here of To Dust comes courtesy of the random-band button at Metal-Archives, which has provided me with quite a few gems and discoveries over the years. I’ve gained a habit of just slamming on that button while on lunch break at work, with the endless flood of metal bands providing multiple cocked eyebrows in the form of ‘that looks interesting’ to ‘holy shit, are you kidding me? that qualifies here?’. To Dust were very much the former — even though their profile photo on that site is hilariously out of date.
For some reason the title of their latest album, False God Of Death, caught my eye, and the simply stated cover art somewhat sealed the deal, though I’d be bullshitting you if I denied that their being a melodeath band didn’t help give the group a boost. As stated before, although tech-death has become a comfort food, melodeath has become my bread-and-butter genre to enjoy.
False God Of Death was released all the way back at the tail end of March and bears a lot of the hallmarks of the melodeath genre: grand keyboard swells, hefty two-step-driven guitar work, and a snarling vocalist hovering in the mid-high range whose vocal delivery is as percussive as their drummer is.
Like many recent melodeath releases — including some of those featured here — False God Of Death is spread out all over the place when it comes to the various styles that have stratified the genre over the years. With the massive keyboard swells present in the background, the group can sometimes sound like Dark Tranquillity. At other times they channel the same heavy, mid-tempo stomp that The Haunted have often used when not in their thrashier moods. And once the drum-blasting happens, and with the proper ‘epic’ riff playing behind them, the band even stumble into the same sort of brief melodic black metal genre sphere that Skeletonwitch were toying with on their most recent release.
And so False God Of Death has a lot of different music to offer listeners. In covering all those styles, the band create some interesting album dynamics, with much of the disc sticking to a staid chug as the band rumble onwards and then differentiating themselves by either going epic for a song, or with some gnarly snarls tearing out of the band’s vocalist to break up the mid-tempo headbanging sessions.
This means the pairing of ‘Shades’ and ‘Through The Others’ works out to be an early album highlight as To Dust move within the boundaries of each song. In the case of “Through The Others” the track starts out suitably epic, with its synth playing sounding perfect to fill a concert hall with all of the various echoing acoustics included, before the band march into one of the more caveman-heavy chugging moments on False God Of Death. It levels out from there, but the consistent switching between the two styles and all the spectra in between — including the brief moment of calm about a third of the way into “Through The Others” before its first big chorus — is a dynamic that plays out constantly throughout the album.
“Shades” winds up paired with it because, like its predecessor, it treads a very similar ground, but is also the track where the group’s love of the mid-tempo and martial stomp really starts to rear its head. There is almost a mirror image in a pairing of songs in the back-half, in “Remain Lost” and “Void God”, both of which have fantastically angular intros before diverging wildly. “Remain Lost” has a lot of fun with its opening melody before sounding like a snarling The Haunted gone completely apocalyptic with the combination of keyboard and guitar lead that surfaces a minute into the song. “Void God” is the prettier of the two, where the melodic side of the band really sticks out. Again, much of the credit goes to the multiple guitar melodies woven throughout the song’s tapestry.
It doesn’t take much to recognize how an album like False God Of Death can hold the appeal it does. Even though it saw release way, way, way back in the early reaches of the year, and even though, as the ever-aware-of-my-surroundings genius that I am, it took a ‘random band’ button on another website about halfway through the year for me to discover it, False God Of Death is a solid demonstration from a band who clearly understand the blueprint for their chosen genre of music. It’s not the quickest listen among the releases I’ve covered in this long round-up, and while I’m personally a big fan of the ole two-step and thrashier side of melodeath, it’s applaudable that the band are able to keep a disc that is built mostly around big, chugging, arena-sided riffs and keyboard swells interesting for its forty-five minutes.
To Dust‘s experimentation with many different melodeath styles throughout False God Of Death has them channeling a variety of differing influences and often hybridizing them. It winds up hitting the comfort-food center of the brain pretty hard, but manages to do so in such a way that it doesn’t feel completely transparent. It will be interesting to see where To Dust go from here, after three albums underneath their belt and False God Of Death showing off a band who have a masterful hand in their chosen genre.