Originally written by K. Scott Ross.
A lot changes in eight years. That’s the maximum length of an American presidential regime, or half the life of a sixteen year old. It’s also the amount of time since French brutal death metal five-piece Kronos released an album. Their 2007 work, The Hellenic Terror, while mid-tier in the overall death metal game, was at least notable in its smaller subgenre, holding its own against Benighted’s Icon and Aborted’s Slaughter & Apparatus. When you come back after eight years with an album called Arisen New Era, that’s a bold claim. Unfortunately, with such a boast, Kronos is probably writing checks that they can’t cash.
The band has seen a slight lineup change since their last outing. The stringmen are all the same; Jérôme “Grams” Grammaire and Ricardo Chuat still play guitars, while Tom (just Tom, I guess) plays bass. Loic “Trivette” Gillet, also of Diluvian, is the new vocalist, while twenty-three-year-old Anthony Reyboz provides many, many blast beats. I find it interesting that Anthony is ten to fifteen years younger than the original band members. One wonders if he listened to Kronos as a teenager? Perhaps he found it inspiring at the time.
Unfortunately, few people are likely to find Arisen New Era inspiring. The album is nine songs long, and clocks in at thirty-seven minutes, so at least it’s not overplayed. Yet even with a reasonable length and track count, nothing stands out from all the other ultra-slick, ultra-fast death metal acts out there. It’s clear that Kronos has been keeping up with Origin, Benighted, and particularly Fleshgod Apocalypse, but all three of those bands seem to at least have something that sets them apart. Kronos is like Benighted without the pig squeals, Origin without the highly technical sweeps, or Fleshgod without the orchestra. In other words, pretty generic.
Of course, generic isn’t always a breaking point. Are store brand “toaster pastries” really that much worse than PopTarts? Of course not. And Arisen New Era is absolutely smashed full of energy. The second track, “Zeus Dethroned,” would have made a great album opener, with it’s back and forth Morbid Angel opening riff that transitions into a Man Must Die-style tremolo. “Klymenos Underwrath” uses some melodic riffage (along with some frenetic bass guitar shredding) to make things interesting, and “Aeons Titan Crown” mixes up the ultra-precise galloping riffs that the genre is known for with a tasteful harmonized guitar solo.
The music certainly isn’t served by the ultra-modern, compressed to Hell and back production. Arisen New Era was released on Unique Leader, so that should tell you something right there. As with bands like Fleshgod and Fallujah, the extreme lack of dynamics doesn’t make the album seem more “brootal,” it makes it seem samey and lackluster. Yeah, it’s fucking loud—try switching from this directly to something like Morbid Angel’s Covenant without adjusting the volume and prepare for a shock—but that just means that you’re going to set your volume at twenty instead of forty. The band isn’t forcing you to experience their music any louder or quieter than you want to, and stuff like this isn’t going to get played on the radio alongside Disturbed and Breaking Benjamin, so why bother?
On the vocal front, Trivette sounds like a death metal vocalist. A generic one. One change since The Hellenic Terror is that Tom no longer adds his vocals to the mix. It’s impossible to know whether that’s because now that he’s older he can no longer yowl like he used to, or whether the band thought that the extra vocal style just wasn’t necessary. If so, they were definitely wrong. That little bit of dynamic change was one of the things that helped The Hellenic Terror stand out.
What I’m trying to drive home here is that Arisen New Era isn’t a new era at all. It’s more of the same processed-to-crap death metal that we’ve been hearing since 2010, and it’s all the poorer for it. The band clearly has technical chops, and they can write a riff or three. But when it all blends into the soup, you can’t appreciate it like you should. Personally, I recommend Arisen New Era for some time when you need high energy but don’t really want to pay attention too much. Maybe the gym. Don’t try using it to keep yourself awake when driving, though. The monotony of sound will do you in.