DEADLOCK — The Arsonist (review)

DEADLOCK — The Arsonist album cover Album · 2013 · Melodic Metalcore Buy this album from MMA partners
2.5/5 ·
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The Arsonist (2013) is the sixth full-length album by German act Deadlock. In the couple of years since the release of Bizarro World (2011) there have been a couple of changes within the band as vocalist Johannes Prem left the band, having performed with them since their 1997 inception. Rather than recruit a new frontman from outside the band bassist John Gahlert switched roles and his bandmate from Fall of Serenity, Ferdinand Rewicki, took over as bassist.

The change in Deadlock goes deeper than a personnel switch though. For the first time since I started listening to them with their album Wolves (2007) I'm presented with an album that cannot be called melodic death metal, the genre which their past work has more or less operated within. It's metalcore the band is producing now. Sure, the band has long also been associated as a metalcore act and included in that scene but to my ears that's always been a grave misconception, and I've been vehemently against Deadlock being mentioned in the same breath as any genuine metalcore act. I can't do that any longer because The Arsonist is at least primarily metalcore album. There are other aspects included in the sound, as always, particularly the female vocal dominate songs move away from metalcore towards more of an alternative sound, but the main focus of the music has seen a definite shift this time around. In fact I'd go so far that there isn't even a trace of the melodic death metal left at this point.

And I just keep asking myself why oh why have they done this? Rewind a few years to Wolves and here was a genuinely interesting melodic death metal act (I don't say that about many melodic death metal acts, for the record). They were able to kick out both intense riffs and beautiful melodies, something with carried over to their vocals between Johannes Prem's growling and Sabine Weniger's (Sabine Scherer, these days) clean singing. They had an underlying progressive quality and weren't afraid to throw in outside influences. On Wolves it was techno sections, which they pulled off. Including a full-on rap/hip-hop section in following album Manifesto (2008) not so much, but their last album Bizarro World was a generally solid affair even though it didn't stand up to their earlier standard. The Arsonist is a decidedly mixed bag of songs as far as the quality goes though.

The album gets off to a poor start with The Great Pretender. A good showcase for their new direction it may be, but it's also one of the weakest songs of a generally poor to mid-range quality bunch along with Darkness Divine. I'm Gone and Dead City Sleepers don't help the album's case much, although I do slightly prefer them due to their more dominate use of Sabine Scherer's singing, which is as beautiful as always, if somehow coming over as being out of place this time around, a problem that I strangely didn't have with the past melodic death metal releases. The title track is where things finally start to take a turn for the better though. It's still not great but showcases that Deadlock still have a bit of that experimental side when we get to hear some electronic elements.

It's As We Come Undone that earns the status of being the first generally good song to appear on the album though. It's quite catchy when Sabine sings the chorus and the more metalcore dominant verse works better than anything heard previously. Hurt, that follows, is also a great track. But at the same time I think it really points out that there are serious flaws within the album when a ballad gets picked out as a highlight. The quality takes another downturn after this though. There's nothing as weak as The Great Pretender again, just more average to good stuff. Final song My Pain combines metal and trance/techno/dance music (not up on this type of stuff to really say more exactly than that) in much the same way that Renegade from the previous album did, although the feel is different. To be honest it is more pop than the earlier track was, and pop is feeling found across the majority of The Arsonist (to be fair though, it's been present in the Deadlock sound for some time), especially on the Sabine led tracks.

Overall this is a disappointing release from Deadlock. It has its moments though so is more of an 'it's OK' release of ups and downs than an outright bad one. The Arsonist is a definite downturn for them though yet at the same time it's still got more going for it than most of the metalcore albums I've listened to. I think that's because deep down Deadlock does still have that bit of variety in them to break the monotony that I get from most releases out of this genre. An above average tier rating is deserved.

59/100

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/deadlock-the-arsonist-t3117.html)
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