Bellgrave - Back As King
Germany’s Bellgrave are a surprising underground return from the dead since 2017, so their sixth full length album “Back As King” is very properly entitled. Featuring the return of their original vocalist, song titles and lyrics back in English instead of German, and a claim to a new ‘hard rock’ sound, listeners may not be sure what to expect from the former death doom band. The result might be better than what one thought. The overall sound is still death doom with the riffs but Bellgrave add in as much of a rock vibe as they can with the rough grunted vocals and more mid paced, accessible riffage such as on the slow churning opener ‘Nemesis’ which has Sabbath driven riffs mixed with gloomy solos and keyboards amongst bellowed wails. It isn’t quite the ‘rock fest’ that one might be hoping for, but there is plenty of that on the other tracks. ‘The Return of the Gunmen’ has more of an upbeat tempo, adds in more spoken word sections that seems akin to a Five Finger Death Punch song, and still retains its death doom core. ‘Kill Your God’ is more of a death rock style song much in the vein of Six Feet Under, and while the vocals are more varied and clearer than the death metal legends, the lyrics and tone of the music makes this track tend to be one of the more forgettable ones, even though it shows Bellgraves attempt at what can be considered a ‘rock friendly’ song compared to a lot of their more doom laden ones.
‘Enemies At The Ocean’ is where the blend of death metal and rock finally comes together with more balance. The thumping riffs during the verses are definitely similar to slowed down version of Throwdown or Vader, but the dramatic chorus is more doom etched and similar to what Bellgrave has done in the past. ‘Back As King’ uses the keyboards and horn sections to more dramatic effect which hides the rather repetitive riffs which come off again more as a simplistic Six Feet Under track or even something catchy from Hackneyed. Despite being slow and driving, it is still a head banger of a track. ‘Dying Tunes’ has doomier interludes and a very foreboding sound that may be considered a bit of a ‘downer’ compared to the foot stomping ‘Glory In Black,’ but again, it showcases the historical tie that Bellgrave keeps to its roots, and leads into the dramatic curveball that is ‘At The End Of All Times,’ which departs from the death rock sound and just serves as a keyboard supported guitar led alternative rock doom piece save for the ending, which still holds plenty of sorrowful melody, which disjointedly leads into the almost dancy ‘Our Way To Eternity’ which is another shocker as Bellgrave tries something new. Adding in more of a Rammstein or early Rob Zombie vibe to their music, this late 90s throwback might come off as a little cliché or ‘sell out’ sound to some long time fans, but at least Bellgrave really dive deep into the hard rock soundscape and throw something out there even if it might not quite sound like them.
Yes, “Back As King’ is very polarizing, jumping between two genres constantly with disjointed songs sometimes but there is a lot to pull from here. One has their doom and death metal style supported by keyboards and others has their anthem driven rock riffs of the hits that propelled nu/ industrial metal to its prime during the early 2000s. Some of the songs tend to sound the same after a while but that is expected as Bellgrave tests the waters to try and find their new scope of sound with a fresh reunion. As a result, fans might not be sure where Bellgrave is going to end up leaning- they could go full on dance metal with the likes of their closing track or slowly crawl back to their death doom olden days. Old fans will probably have a love hate relationship with this album, but new fans should treat it as a new era of the band, much like how Paradise Lost started in grim death doom and suddenly shifted more towards gothic doom with the likes of album such as “Host” before finally going back to their roots. Bellgrave are still welcome back to the death metal/ rock world and hopefully will deliver some more balanced death rock in the future. Or dance death rock. Or full-on stoner doom death rock. Either way, it will be exciting to hear.
3.5 / 5 STARS