Pertness - Metamorphosis - (8/10)
Published on February 16, 2019
It goes without saying that with the passage of time a band will change in one form or another, but when the evolutionary path seems to point in a backward trajectory, the results tend towards the less than exceptional. One will recount the underwhelming or downright disappointing ventures (depending on with whom one is conversing) that Suidakra and Ensiferum trotted out in Command To Charge and Unsung Heroes respectively, where the charming folksy trimmings of the former band’s earlier sound and the flash and flair of the latter were jettisoned for a more “straightforward” approach. Needless to say, the odds are stacked against the likes of Switzerland’s most curious power metal export Pertness, who have been at the game in one form or another for 25 years now and originally planted their flag on a highly unique synthesis of folksy, Gothenburg, old school metal and German speed/power metal trappings that was quite distinct at the band’s formative period just 10 years prior. To put it plainly, Seven Times Infinity and From The Beginning To The End were unsung classics in their own right, so departing from the formula that yielded both would seem an unwise move.
Having said that, while 2018’s Metamorphosis has seen a more stripped down and streamlined version of Pertness that simply dwells upon the hybridized Gothenburg meets German power metal sound without the Manowar and Blind Guardian meets Turisas trappings, it doesn’t see an outright drastic downgrade in the overall quality of the band’s sound. Quite the contrary, a heightened emphasis on guitar work and a thunderous rhythm section backing up the barely tonal shouts and growls of Tom Schluchter and a more modest keyboard accompaniment finds an album that is fare more impact-based than previous ventures and only slightly less intricate. The hook oriented melodic content is still front and center, yielding a number of infectious anthems with a faster pace in the opening title song “Metamorphosis” and the thrashing cooker “Firestorm” that would just as easily rope in an In Flames or Arch Enemy fanatic as it would the typical Sabaton or Mystic Prophecy fan boy. Truth be told, in spite of the toned down epic elements that adorned earlier works, there is still a fairly subtle folksy air to even the more straight up metallic fodder that dominates much of this album.
If there is a good analogous illustration that could be attached to how this album comes off, between the more stylized demeanor and the generally more concise songwriting, it would be what Reroute To Remain should have been had Anders Friden opted for a less metalcore-infused clean vocal approach and the band hadn’t dumbed down and slowed down their sound to such a massive degree. Schluchter’s general affinity with the Erik Nordstrom approach to album mixing and production is still front and center, adding the further caveat of In Flames aforementioned 2002 flop also retaining the services of said producer for a darker and more formidable sound. Pile on top of that a songwriting approach that still makes an occasional exception for a longer and more involved formula as heard on the fast-paced and fierce melodic romp “Left Behind”, along with some retained folk-infused elements as heard on the noodling closer “There’s A Storm In My Mind” and even a curiously placed accordion intro on the otherwise power thrashing “Waves Of Pain”, and the analogy becomes a tad bit tenuous at times, but still a fairly good one from a more general perspective.
It would behoove the author of this review to avoid the ever-tempting cliche argument of this album being “not as good as what came before but still worth everyone’s time”, but there really isn’t any other way to sum up what Metamorphosis is to anyone who has fallen in love with Pertness’ past offerings or would otherwise be inclined to do so upon being introduced to them. This is a more direct and concise version of where the band was a few years prior on their third studio offering Frozen Time, itself a noted departure from this band’s more ambitious past in face of a more stripped down approach. It will hold a greater degree of appeal for old school In Flames fans who are not wholly averse to the notion of a vocal melody of some degree accompanying the saturated atmosphere of harmonized guitars and keyboard drones, or to put it more succinctly, anyone who considers Clayman to have been In Flames’ crowning achievement in the recording studio. There is definitely a healthy degree of variation between biting rage and melancholy nostalgia going on in the music to keep it from being one-dimensional, but this is about as plain of an offering of tuneful melodic metal with a jagged edge as one will find.