A one-person melodeath band, Buried Realm is, without a doubt, sans peer. That’s not to say that quality modern melodeath doesn’t exist. In fact, Act of Denial, featuring Speed Strid and Steve Di Giorgio, no less, released a killer debut (Negative) just last year. But that was a group affair. Despite the smorgasbord of impressive guests on every release, including this one, Buried Realm is – outside of Heikki Saari (Finntroll, ex-Norther) on drums – Josh Dummer. Though such affairs often fall victim to the very specific whims of the few individuals involved, Buried Realm has always benefited from the obvious professionalism and developed quirks of Dummer.
The quirks come from Dummer’s unparalleled ability to combine distinct corners of melodeath into the singular Buried Realm aesthetic. Buried Realm is equal part melody (Scar Symmetry), riff (In Flames), and unbridled aggression (Children of Bodom). Yet Buried Realm’s sound is nowhere near as limited as those comparisons suggest. Songs such as “Spectral Light” and “Witch Bones” are too memorably and seemingly singular in vision to be the result of something quite so inorganic. Rather, it is easy to see where Dummer took his influences from in developing said memorable and singular vision.
More than perhaps any other melodic death metal band, Buried Realm understands, respects, and plays with dynamics in a rich, rewarding way. The surprise contributions of Dan Swano (“Where the Armless Phantoms Glide”), Bob Katsionis (“Witch Bones”), and Christian Münzner (“Poison Palace”) play a not insignificant part in that phenomenon. But the burden to write and record compelling songs rests on Dummer’s shoulders alone.
Whereas prior releases – the aforementioned The Ichor Carcinoma, and Embodiment of the Divine – felt, even if slightly, uneven, Buried Realm sounds appropriately edited. In fact, because the songwriting is tighter, one may be even more inclined to make the Scar Symmetry comparisons here than with albums past. But this third album is every bit as dense and riff- and solo-laden as the prior two releases. The difference is that the hyper-bounce of “Elder Gods” and “The Iron Flame” packs a crisper punch than “Silver Tongue” from Embodiment of the Divine or “Unscrupulous” from The Ichor Carcinoma. Here, the song length often belies the band’s progressive tendencies.
History has not been kind to self-titled releases. Buried Realm is the exception. Regardless of the intent, the quirks rarely survive the transition, no matter how seemingly inextricable those quirks are from the original appeal of the band. Yet Dummer manages to write shorter but no less intricate songs while acknowledging that it was the playfulness of the riffs that made The Ichor Carcinoma and Embodiment of the Divine so fun.