Torchbearer - Death Meditations

Torchbearer's third album took some time for it to come to fruition, but it was well worth it. Continuing to evolve and divurge from their debut album, which was a generic mess, 'Death Meditations' is even more melodic and bombastic, granting the band a whole new level of 'epic proportions.' It mixes melodic death metal with thrash and black, but the two blends so well together that fans will not be able to pick them apart, as lots of other bands can tend to do. Consider this a mix of Scar Symmetry (minus the clean vocals), Sylosis, and also Dimmu Borgir. The album can be a bit predictable at times in the melodic death metal formula, opening with a heavily symphonic instrumental full of piano and Tim Burton-esque melodies that really add a gothic atmosphere, and then obliterating with the metal part until about halfway through with another instrumental- this time acoustic- and then hammering through again. However, the metal parts of the music are quite engaging, as the main focus are the guitars. On "Momentum" they hit with such ferocity it seems like the listener is hearing black metal, along with the symphonic bits muffled in the background with the vocals in their prime snarl. Of course, it isn't all just seamless guitar flow; lots of time they go into a very technical, segmented style that is 'stop and go, stop and go' and then break into the more even flowing, melodic bits, with the vocals often going for a deeper growl than snarl. Altogether, it is a very enjoyable mix that sets the standard for the rest of the album.

Other tracks like "At Takao River" have electronica influences that sound a bit like Soilwork, but the issue with this is that the keyboard/ synth just seems to loop the same blips and bleeps over and over amongst the raging guitars. Fortunately, they stop when the guitars go into a more quiet solo and then pick up again, only this time going for a more eerie, gothic tone that adds a great amount of atmosphere to the music without it just being raging, typical death metal. The slow nature of the second half of the track is in great juxtaposition with the heavier solo that draws a bit from Scary Symmetry, and again stands as testimony to the band's tendency to vary pace through the music while not being redundant. Even the vocals- grim as they are- stand out during the quieter moments and sound more terrifying than ever. "Death Meditations" relies on guitar solos, sounding more thrash-like, while "Penumbra" sounds a bit more like typical melodic death metal, with the synth/ keyboards just hanging in the background while the guitars are layered: one chugging away with the other going for more of a streaming sound. However, the entire track is not a generic let down because partially near the end suddenly the guitars make much more use of the slide/ warble feature and then the music breaks into this rhythmic, pulsing melodic black metal riff that sounds like it came from a band like Old Man's Child and the drums/ keyboards are much more prevalent.

The closer, "The Aphotic Depths," with also surprise listeners with the acoustic guitar bits near the end, which sounds very organic and a great soothing way to close out the album. Even though "In the Shadow Of Leaves" is also acoustic, "Aphotic..." also feature backing choirs to add more symphonic layers for a complex and enjoyable respite from the pummeling metal that starts the track out. Indeed, this album is perhaps Torchbearer's finest release yet; it may have taken them five years to release it, which is a surprise since it only took them two years to release their sophomore album. However, taking time allows groups to put things in perspective, and rather than being rushed, 'Death Meditations' is an excellent slab of melodic death metal that will appeal to fans of not only that genre, but probably black metal too due to the vocals variations.

  1. Portals
  2. The Momentum
  3. Coffin-Shaped Heart
  4. At Takao River
  5. Severings
  6. In The Shadow Of Leaves
  7. Death Meditations
  8. Penumbra
  9. Dying Codex
  10. The Aphotic Depths