'The Only Good Samaritan...' - Dead Samaritan (6/10)
In what little has been written online so far about these guys, Finland’s Dead Samaritan are often pegged as a crossover between melodic death metal and thrash, or described with the painfully vague (and overused) term ‘female-fronted death metal’. Although neither description will get any argument from me, the band’s latest output (and first full-length) struck me otherwise. “The Only Good Samaritan...”- to my humble ears- stands at a meeting place between death metal, and classic rock n’ roll. Although the fusion between rock riffs and death metal energy has been attempted before (and often unsuccessfully), Dead Samaritan manage to find a working balance. There is nothing here of a “Heartbreak Hotel” nature, but the balls-out energy of vintage rock n’ roll and 80’s sleaze has found a home in this death metal host.
Although I mentioned a basis in more traditional rock music, make no mistake; Dead Samaritan bring a pure death metal sound to the table. Growled vocals, double-kick drums and crunchy guitars are all staples here, withdrawing from the riff assault only sparingly. Rather, the ‘rock’ vibe emanates from the songwriting. “The Only Good Samaritan...” is a glorification of song structure, something often dismissed by a great many metal bands these days. Although the riffs are often fast, ideas are rarely strained past the point of expiry. There’s always a tasty chorus or new set of riffs to take the old ones’ place. Although Dead Samaritan’s style of songwriting may feel ironically fresh in the scheme of modern metal, the quality itself isn’t particularly astounding, although there are a few songs that demonstrate the band’s talent in full. Among these are the excellently catchy “Laid to Waste”, and the far-and-beyond album highlight; “In the Shadows of the Mind”. Here, Dead Samaritan step away from the fast-paced riffs for a bit, offering something much darker, something akin to the feeling of melodic dread I get listening to the first two Dissection albums.
Dual guitarists Marko Saarinen and Matti Viholainen make for a great core to the band, offering catchy riffs and tastefully thrashy leads to boot. Although it may be the comparison everybody always makes when speaking of female death metal vocalists, Valendis Suomalainen is a stone’s throw away from Archenemy’s Angela Gossow. Although her higher-range growl is admittedly something of an acquired taste, her vocals compliment the band’s rock n’ roll vibe quite well, although it would have been nice to hear more of the lower grunts. The gang vocals are somewhat less impressive, often coming off as a dull thud in the mix. The production of the album is decent: certainly better than what the genre’s innovators had to cope with, but lacking the organic ferocity best suited for their style.
In a way, it’s refreshing to hear the typically chaotic sound of death metal transposed onto such traditional song structures. Naturally however, this comes at the price of losing the element of control that often makes the death metal style sound so dangerous. There are hooks aplenty to behold with Dead Samaritan, and I cannot say I’ve heard too many death metal records that get this catchy without resorting to superfluous melodies, but there are many times on the album where I would have loved to see the band toss off the restraints and go for something unpredictable. With that being said, “The Only Good Samaritan...” is a solid outing from this band, and I can easily imagine these guys bringing a stronger game to their next outing.