I will admit from the start, this was a very odd record for me to have to cover. Normally, I am not all that interested in metal music that leans more towards the extreme end of the spectrum, as I tend to find that, after a point, the quest to be overwhelming brutal outweighs the sense of melody required to separate music from noise. Now, I will be fair, most extreme metal artists DO keep some degree of melody to their music (even if it isn’t in the vocals) and there is usually a high degree of compositional skill in extreme metal as a result (because you have to produce something that is still interesting to listen to), so I am aware that there is a valid reason to appreciate extreme metal. However, I personally find that I just can’t enjoy a record where the only vocals are extreme metal ones because it just all results in the music starting to blend together to me. While I have exceptions to that rule (Plague Rider’s EP Paroxysm was actually very interesting once I got used to the vocals), it’s fair to say extreme metal is something I can usually only take in small doses.
So, where do Australians Gods of Eden fit into my tastes? Well, let’s put it this way: when I was told to expect technical metal and my research into the band mentioned technical death metal, I expected to hear something akin to Dream Theatre if Mark Jansen was on vocals. What I definitely did NOT expect was for the first vocals I heard on the record to be clean vocals (and not a choir guesting on the album either: these were clean vocals from the band’s lead vocalist!).
So yeah, turns out this is more in the vein of very technical Gothenburg metal than what I was expecting. And you know what? I actually like what I heard!
Let’s get the obvious comment out of the way: if you’re approaching this album expecting technical death metal in the vein of later-day Death, you’re almost certainly going to be disappointed, because From the End of Heaven is actually more in line with a far more technical Sonic Syndicate (certainly, one could argue Sonic Syndicate’s self-titled album from last year is what Gods of Eden would be producing if they didn’t have the progressive tendencies to their sound). This is in no ways a bad thing if you approach it with the right expectations, but the labelling of the album may put off more hardened death metal fans who are approaching it expecting the likes of, say, Dying Fetus, because it doesn’t deliver on those expectations.
With that said, what is on offer is actually pretty good if you approach it with the right expectations. The songwriting has a lot of variety to it that clearly showcases the band knows what they’re doing and it all comes together very well. It doesn’t QUITE jump to the extent of, say, having a jazz section in the middle of a song, but you can certainly tell the band knows how to put a song together well. I do think the band still has a bit of tightening up of the songwriting to do, as some of the song sections don’t flow quite as well as they should do (for example, some of the drumming changes up so suddenly in ‘Through the Abyss’ that I felt like the song kept stopping and starting unexpectedly) and I think the band might want to work a bit harder to establish their own unique identity, but, considering it’s the band’s first album, expecting the band to have everything nailed down perfectly is a bit unfair. Certainly, I’ve heard far worse debut albums in my time and, considering this style of music isn’t usually my cup of tea, I have to say that the fact I didn’t regard this album as a chore to listen to in the slightest is a very promising sign.
The performances on the record definitely have a lot of skill to them, although I wouldn’t say they are the most technical performances you’ll have ever heard if you’re used to technical metal. I can’t really highlight any performance over the others because they’re all very solid by technical metal standards, but I do think that I personally would say drummer David Horgan deserves a lot of praise, because his performance was always a joy to listen to on the record. I think vocalist Ian Dixon might be the only member who I had any real concerns over, as his vocals, while definitely not bad (he didn’t drag the record down at all), brought Jesse Leach to mind with his cleans and a slightly deeper voiced Bjorn Strid for his harsh vocals, so his voice is probably going to be a source of complaint among the average technical death metal fan. Still, there’s nothing wrong with sounding like another vocalist (heck, Tim “Ripper” Owens has pretty much made an entire career out of sounding like Rob Halford) and, once I mentally tuned the comparison out of my thoughts, his vocals definitely fit the music well, so put this down to nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking if you want to.
The production is basically your standard metal production, so I have to make my usual comments: the mastering could do with being a bit less loud (although it is definitely NOT done to an extreme extent like some other records I’ve heard this year, so I could accept this complaint being a bit unfair) and I would have liked a bit more bass presence in the mix, but that’s really about it. The mixing in general is actually fairly good aside from the bass complaint, as the more atmospheric moments in the songwriting shine through nicely, so huge props to the people who did the mixing, as you had a surprisingly tough job and (mostly) rose to the challenge!
Ultimately, considering I went into this expecting to come out of it saying that I didn’t like it, but hadn’t expected to in the first place, I have to say that From the End of Heaven is actually not a bad album. Certainly, it’s well put together and the songwriting, while still having room for improvement, is good enough for me to enjoy this record. I’m not convinced I can give the record any major recommendations to anyone, since it is a tough record to pin down the audience that will like it, but I will say this: if you like the sound of this record, then it is definitely worth a shot!
From the End of Heaven will be released independently on the 16th of October. A promo copy of the album was provided for review purposes. From the End of Heaven is available from http://www.nervegas.com.au/gods-of-eden-from-the-end-of-heaven-cd