Taphos - Come Ethereal Somberness - (7.5/10)
Published on June 8, 2018
Denmark has been a real hotbed of good death metal lately. Just last year, Undergang, Phrenelith, and Hyperdontia released good to excellent offerings in the putrid arts. This year, we’ve got Taphos, who do not quite live up to the high standards set by the aforementioned bands. Before their debut, Taphos released an EP and a couple of tantalizing demos that hinted at some great potential for the band. And though they have made a reliable and mostly enjoyable album in their debut, Come Ethereal Somberness, it feels a little too standard to stand out from the crowd.
Taphos play a brand of death metal that sounds a whole lot like Incantation but with clearer production and Denmark style guitar distortion. Their music also sounds particularly vicious due to the vocal performance, which eschews lower growls for a mid-register scream/rasp. Death metal without low vocals is a bit of a pet peeve of mine and a hard sell; I really believe that Taphos would be stronger with a lower register vocal performance, but the one we get isn’t half-bad for what it is. It definitely adds some energy and a bit of a unique feel given that it is different from many other bands playing a style heavily influenced by Incantation.
Speaking of Incantation, Taphos takes their style of tremolo-heavy death metal riffing to the max. This album is almost all tremolo all the time. Every few minutes there is a low register, bumbling riff complete with some hammer ons and pull offs, but for the most part we get very malevolent sounding tremolo parts. They work really well with the style of non-distortion-sounding distortion commonly found on Danish death metal recordings. What I mean by that is that on tremolo riffs, the guitar almost sounds like it is just tuned low and has no distortion on it. Then when chords are played the distortion becomes clearer and produces a crushing effect. It’s a great sound and works well for death metal bands that have a strong focus on low-end sounds. Overall, the riffs are solid if not spectacular, though they end up sounding a bit interchangeable with the strong focus on sticking to tremolo-riffing without much variation. The guitar solos, on the other hand, are less solid. It sounds like the guitarists tried to go for an odd, squirming sound, but rather than coming off as creepy they come off as half-baked and amateurish. I can’t say I really enjoyed any of the solos here, and I think the album honestly could have done without them. Again, they tend to be just tremolo picked with a bit of tapping thrown in and sometimes some whammy bar action. They would have benefited from a bit more dynamics and variety. They almost sound like guitarists who just learned how to play and are making up solos without any knowledge of theory.
The rhythm section is probably the highlight of the album. The bass sounds great and provides an excellent bedrock for the guitars to riff over. The drums are militaristic and extremely precise. Sometimes they get a bit overwhelming and you find yourself wishing he’d take a damn break from constant blasts and double bass, but overall it lends an enjoyable intensity to the album. The drums also match the guitars and bass very well, so every time there is a variation on a riff or a little detail thrown in, the drums are there to highlight it. The drums stay in lock step with the stringed instruments, providing perhaps the most compelling part of the album. There are also some cool parts that feature some tasty drum and bass interplay (see “Impending Peril” and “A Manifest of Trepidation”).
With every listen, some aspects of Taphos come off as a bit perfunctory. Mostly, they’re things that I’ve mentioned already, like the constant tremolo riffing and hyper-aggressive drumming. They seem a little “death metal by numbers.” The interludes also feel shallow and like they were only included for aesthetic reasons. The album begins and ends with quiet interludes, and there is one thrown into the middle of the album as well. They don’t really add anything to the album. It feels more like the band thought, “albums need interludes! Let’s write some!” These could have easily been excised to cut out a couple minutes of run-time and resulted in a leaner album.
All told, Taphos has crafted a solid death metal album. It’s nothing spectacular; they don’t really add anything new to the death metal canon; but if you’re looking for some decent Incantation worship with a heavy dose of aggression, Taphos may be your thing.