Originally written by Chris Chellis.
Something strange happened to me somewhere in listening to From Your Grave. It wasn’t a miracle nor was it particularly eye-opening. Nevertheless, it was surprising. I found myself enjoying a modern melodic death metal album, an event which graces this god forsaken earth no more than two or three times a year. I can’t stand labels, and yet I find myself using them often in the musical world as a barometer for judgment. Melodic death metal: I usually associate this genre with a pissing contest to see what group can be the most brutal while still conveying to the listening audience some sense of melody. The trivialization of melodic death metal almost turns me off more than listening to a black metal fan go off about the latest “ambient, misanthropic” masterpiece he bought at www.jerkmeoffnow.com. So it was with hesitant ears that I hit play and started listening to this debut album from Florida’s The Absence. The Absence is more melodic than nearly any American melodic death metal band you can name. That’s made crystal clear from the grave riff that welcomes listeners within the first ten seconds of the recording. When penning a script, a writer attempts to create the “world of the story” within the first page. What The Absence has done immediately with the intro is create its world of the story. When vocalist Jamie Steward finally belts out an alarming scream, after more than two minutes of beautiful guitar work, the tension has reached an all time high, and the listener’s anticipation pays off. Credit must be given to both Peter Joseph and Patrick Pintavalle, who together form a formidable guitar duo not unlike Mike Schleibaum and Kris Norris of Darkest Hour or, digging further into the genre’s history, Anders Bjorler and Martin Lardsson of At the Gates. They’re not afraid to slow things down temporarily to draw out solos or inject more melody. Songs are kept tight, distinct, and powerful through Schleibaum and Norris, who lead the way with Nick Calaci on bass and Jeramie Kling on drums. More important than any other element in a genre threatened with overexposure and indulgence is a group’s ability to sound inspired, and, in turn, be inspiring. The Absence realizes this potential at its strongest in songs like “Heaven Ablaze” and “A Breath Beneath,” both of which begin with the kind of galloping riff that makes the song both immediately accessible and open to go in a plethora of directions in terms of structure. The latter song jumps into an early chorus before the sound level of the guitars reach a pinnacle and frenetic notes ensue. Repeat and you have the recipe for not only one of From Your Grave’s more noteworthy tracks, but one of melodic death metal’s most inspired tracks of 2005. Production by Erik Rutan only serves to bring to life what is already inherent in The Absence’s tight and compelling songs. If you bought more than one melodic death metal album from an American band this year, you owe it to yourself to pick up From Your Grave, which will at least equal if not annihilate the other albums in your collection. Thrash fans might also be interested in checking this out. Coreheads open to melody should also like this release.