There is no doubting that the new album from French melodic death metallers A.C.O.D lives up to its name, II The Maelstrom a fierce and uncompromising tempest of sound and emotion which could be the soundtrack and reflection of the turmoil in the world right now. The thirteen track encounter sears ears, withers the senses, and grips the imagination with its fusion of creative twists and varied flavours, and though a punishing conflict from start to finish it makes for one compelling incitement.
Formed mid-2006, A.C.O.D has increasingly gripped attention with a sound seemingly bred on thrash and blackened seeds alongside its prime death metal heart. It has been an evolving proposition over time, and one luring increasing acclaim and spotlights the way of the band. Debut album Point Zero was released in 2009 with its successor First Earth Poison two years later. Both were well received though the five-track EP Another Path in 2013 has been their strongest bait on ears and appetites for their sonic fury; that is until now. Produced by Shawter of Dagoba and mastered by former Machine Head guitarist Logan Mader, II The Maelstrom is A.C.O.D’s most creatively hungry and impressive offering yet and from its first moments the Marseille quintet takes no prisoners.
Straight away Another path swarms ears with ravenous riffs and imposing beats to instantly destabilise the senses. It is a hellacious yet controlled start which offers a carnivorous bestial bassline and sound to drool over which continues even as intensity and energy is kicked up a gear or two soon after. This marks the entrance of the raw throated vocals which in turn sparks a further thrash infused onslaught, but one which dips in and out of melodically honed lapses in ferocity. They are mere breaths in the again best described as swarm of riffs and rhythms, the guitars additionally creating an alluring web of sonic persuasion across it all.
It is a great start matched by the slightly less rabid Way of death, a track again bulging with highly tempting grooves around irritable riffs and rhythms. As it proceeds the track gets more volatile but equally inventive as spicy melodies escape guitar strings and vocals spill ire coated but more patient aggression. As in the first song there is a thickness in air and sound which means a kind of acclimatisation is needed but it comes quickly whilst laying lures to draw ears back again and again to explore more. This applies to the whole album as evidenced again by the following pair of Abuse me and Ghost memories. The first of the two is a predator, a beast gnawing on ears and spreading rancorous enmity but like those before, fuelled by a virulence which just grips with consummate ease thoughts and an already brewing hunger for the release. Guitars flirt with sonic enterprise whilst the bass chews on the senses in tandem with the scything swing of sticks on drum skin, the blend a merciless treat which continues in its successor. Featuring Soilwork’s Björn ‘Speed’ Strid, the track looms over the listener with a wall of barbarous rhythms and again a tide of nagging riffs which only evolve into something just as destructive and magnetic as a vocal blend entices whilst melodies wind through the sonic turmoil. It is a glorious assault and provocation of the imagination, especially as haunting winds and industrial tinged elements make full use of calmer moments.
From one major highlight to another as the vicious smog of Words of War descend on the senses, its composed savagery anthemically riveting and physically intimidating for a bracing and once more evolving assault. It is that fluid and unpredictable ability to twist around and explore contrasting if still lethal adventure in songs which turns II The Maelstrom from a good album into a thoroughly thrilling proposal. Both Black wings and the excellent Rise confirm that, their individual impassioned uproars further defined by the intricate craft and ideation veining each, though in the former of the two the rousing and corrosive breath of the track wins out whilst Rise is another which just steals the passions, its torrential grudge bound in impressive imagination whilst keeping its savage jaws in undeterred motion.
Cold is another peak, its melancholically stringed, melodic opening bewitching but subsequently swallowed in the belly of the sonic beast and another thumping anthem of bad–blooded barbarism. That animosity is on the first gasp of the following Death breath too alongside an enticing of acidic grooves and waspishly nagging riffs whilst Unleash the fools which sees Shawter also guesting, finds its strongest bait in the clean vocals and the hostile invention which seems to especially bloom around them. It is arguably the weakest song on the album yet leaves you wanting more and subsequently basking in a folkish/melodic metal sculpted oasis midway which just lights up ears.
II The Maelstrom is concluded by the trio of firstly Fallen, another strong song not quite having the same potency of those before, the classically hued and thrash fuelled Crimson, and finally the album’s title track which like an apocalyptic bear bellows and smothers ears in a swamp of raw passion shaped by toxic grooves, crushing rhythms, and scarring vocals. It also provides a melodic refuge within its storm which leads the listener out of the release with a warm and elegant peace.
It is hard to say that II The Maelstrom is something majorly new for the death metal scene yet it continually provides something fresh and inventive to the ear within its more recognisable turmoil. The result is one richly pleasing and satisfying encounter, and as suggested earlier, the finest aural ravishment from A.C.O.D yet.
II The Maelstrom is released September 15th
Pete RingMaster 15/09/2105
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