Rifftera - Pitch Black - (7.5/10)
Published on September 7, 2015
I see this band labeled as alternative melodeath, and I balk at such claims. There is nothing of the sort here on Pitch Black, Rifftera’s first album. Ridiculous band name that is sure to earn the band a lot of scorn aside, this is pretty decent, dense and chuggy melodeath/groove with some solid clean refrains ala Soilwork and Scar Symmetry. There are also a lot of keyboards, so the closest comparisons will indeed be the Swedish fare already mentioned, although Rifftera’s execution is tighter and more reliant on the weight of the riffs as opposed to constantly deferring to the clean vocals as a crutch; “Morphogenesis,” anyone? Pitch Black is redolent of more professional fare and sounds like a reasonably fleshed out endeavor, since these guys have been active as a unit for quite a while, going back to the Chain Reaktion project that spit out a couple of demos nobody heard around 2005.
So yeah, while the album earns some brownie points for calibrating an equitable balance between the riffs and more melodic distractions, this doesn’t necessarily mean it all works out as intended. Better tunes like “One Step Closer” manage to avoid succumbing to unwanted repetition and tease just enough with the clean vocals, which are a husky and fair timbre courtesy of MIkko Kuoppamaa. “Ashes Fall” sounds like it could be a lost mid-period Scar Symmetry tune, and I really dig the stabbing orchestral interventions via the synths, which are used prominently but in more of an atmospheric vein. “One Step Closer” opens with a garish electronic melody that sounds like Blood Stain Child, but most tunes are more measured and in control of themselves. This does Rifftera plenty of favors, as the album is a relatively easy listen yet has some ambitious inclinations such as the eleven-plus minute eponymous closer, which we will get to in a bit.
The centrepiece of the record is unmistakably the single “Rotten to the Core” featuring Strid from Soilwork. No, this isn’t an Overkill cover, and nor does it really live up to such a lofty song title. Strid is pleasant and capable as always, delivering a memorable refrain, but the rest of the song is pretty damn stock/rote, crunching the melodeath numbers with an air of repetitious indifference. This same dichotomy fells certain sections of some of the other tunes, but Rifftera are competent enough to avoid overt banality. Alternatively, “Open Wounds” covers quite a bit of ground, opening with a punishing death metal groove and seguing into more atmospheric jams laid atop a swell of feverish chugging. My personal highlight has to be the eponymous closer, which is a progressive beast with some melodic black metal influences tied into an entanglement of acoustic intervals and ambient keys. It builds and releases tension very well, and features a killer keyboard solo near the end. Proves that the band has a lot more to offer than placid grooves and posturing.
Pitch Black also sounds surprisingly professional for an album self-recorded over a long period of time. The guitar tone is modern and thick as hell, and pinch harmonics sound rich and biting. Other than the band’s tendency to defer to drop-out sections without riffs far too often, I see no glaring deficiencies in Rifftera’s approach, and this is a good take on the style without the meandering melancholy and weightless masturbatory leads that dog the typical template. This band will serve as good fit in your discography between Disarmonia Mundi and the bands already mentioned. A reasonable debut and reason to stick around and see where these guys go next.