Meadows End - The Sufferwell - (9/10)
Published on June 7, 2014
Genre:Symphonic Death / Symphonic Metal
2014 continues to be a good year for death metal and as the shadow of the new Septic Flesh album looms ever nearer, the spotlight in turn shines on similarly flavored acts, in particular Meadows End from Sweden, who on their new album, The Sufferwell, plays a form of symphonic death metal that is much improved from their debut, Ode to Queitus. The approach is similar but the quality of its riffs is what’s changed, perhaps also even the assortment contained therein as this new effort doesn’t necessarily convince me that death metal is all these guys want to play.
It’s an album that wants to be death metal and tries to persuade the listener of that with deep gutturals and riffs sprinkled in that certainly play the part, but under the hood there are more goings on to make their style a bit more amoebic than most sympho death releases. It’s got a softer edge and more glitz, a very straightforward presentation of its structuring and riffs that focus on catchy hooks backed by integrally placed orchestrations that transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Quite frankly, it’s a feel-good type of album, similar to Firewind’s Days of Defiance in how formulaic yet infectious its choruses and rhythms are, yet I’m reminded of Old Man’s Child and Dimmu Borgir from time to time as well (“Kings of Greed” and “Trench of Souls”).
That the most apt way of describing The Sufferwell is through comparison to a power metal record is rather telling, but since Meadows End is in actuality a death metal band, the comparisons to Fleshgod Apocalypse become too overbearing to ignore, especially since the band has eschewed their comparatively more technical melodic death style altogether in favor of something more stripped down but vastly more interesting. It’s not particularly aggressive, though, but its beauty lies in its haunting simplicity, as “Reap” superbly demonstrates with slow, chugging riffs and a triumphant, climactic orchestration that oozes a sense of royal authority. The foreboding yet majestic “Hung in Gallows by Dawn” contrasts beautifully to the following aggression that “This Coming Nightfall” displays with Hypocrisy-ish riffs.
There is indeed a surprising amount of variety on The Sufferwell, but the big surprise for me was the progressively inclined “Funeral of a Porcelain Doll,” which shows just how much impact something as simple as track order can have on an album. The song’s differences give it enough reason to stand out, but near the end of the album it takes on a unique perspective, which coincidentally, is somewhat how Meadows End leaves me feeling about their take on this subgenre in general. The Sufferwell is instantly likeable but profoundly enduring, making the ordinarily extreme very accessible yet true to its form, which is no easy task, considering the risky business of changing genres completely. The tricky precipice these guys balance atop might not seem so tricky but, then again, such is the allusion that masters of their craft can so easily convey.