What the world needs now is another retro Swedish death metal band like I need a hole in the head. In the past few years, the spirit of Stockholm circa 1990 has been so thoroughly captured and recaptured that it’s locked in a sub-basement and chained to a radiator somewhere, never to escape again, which is probably why so many of these new old-school acts have a tough time finding it. Nevertheless, it seems like, these days, every month brings another batch of bands walking the Left Hand Path to the Ever Flowing Stream, and here we go again…
Like label-mates Revel In Flesh, Massive Assault is a non-Swedish outfit thoroughly rooted in the Swedish basics. (Flesh is German; Massive Assault is Dutch.) And like Revel In Flesh, while they’re technically sound in many respects, they don’t add anything to the established arsenal. They’re an average addition to an already crowded scene, not particularly bad in concept but undeniably late to the party and therefore extremely redundant. Death Strike is their second full-length, behind 2009’s Dystopian Prophecies. I haven’t heard that earlier effort, so I cannot speak toward any progress or lack thereof that Massive Assault may have made in the interim, but there’s little on Death Strike that makes me wish to rectify that oversight.
All the expected tropes are here – buzzing guitars, d-beat influences beside tremolo-picked melodies, dry-throated growling (at times reminiscent of fellow Dutchman Martin van Drunen), themes of battle and sounds of war. The Assault is at their most massive in the few instances when they slow to a steamroller gait – “Dismal Life” and parts of “Turning Tides” are both the heaviest and most memorable sections of Death Strike. The remainder of the disc is cookie-cutter Swedeath, and though it’s capably executed and pretty straightforward, in the end, most of this Strike inflicts little lasting injury. When all is said and done, very little remains with the listener, save those two tunes and the hints of melody that infuse the tremolo riffs in “Pride.”
Of course, a lack of originality isn’t always a death sentence — there’s plenty of great metal bands and albums that aren’t terribly innovative. But unfortunately, its copycat attack isn’t Death Strike’s only misstep – the production is also lopsided. The guitars buzz a la Sunlight, but the bass is pingy and instead of Strike being a thick, massive assault like the best of its influences, it’s thin and lacks the necessary punch. There’s no bottom end, no resonance, nothing underpinning the buzzsaw guitars, and thus, this Strike feels and falls flat.
The Swedish death metal retro movement is definitely playing itself out, though a few well-done last-minute entries may still eke in under the wire. Nevertheless, Death Strike isn’t one of them – between its production woes and inherent redundancy, it’s outgunned and outclassed by dozens of better and similar efforts in the recent past.