After a 16-year sabbatical the unsung Death Metal heroes SÉANCE have resurfaced to shove another comeback album straight down our throats... Being skeptical of comeback albums, I was quite surprised of the level of quality I found on “Awakening Of The Gods”. Suddenly this highly anticipated reunion actually lived up quite well to its expectations.
Back in the early 90’s SÉANCE made quite a name for themselves in the underground scene. Their illustrious releases “Fornever Laid To Rest” and “Saltrubbed Eyes” received much critical acclaim and were even granted a semi-classic status! This admiration was in no terms farfetched, quality wise these quasi-landmarks were almost on a par with the releases of their country mates ENTOMBED and DISMEMBER at that time. Alas, these Swedes never received the recognition they so badly deserved. Instead of continuing their ruthless Death Metal spree, the band fell apart in the mid 90’s when members started forming new projects such as THE HAUNTED, WITCHERY and SATANIC SLAUGHTER. More than 10 years later, the dormant behemoth SÉANCE awakes from its hibernation... How has it stood the test of time?
One thing is for sure, SÉANCE are still as rotten and old-school as over a decade ago. Largely thriving on their old-school grooving Swedish Death Metal sound, they successfully mix in some fine modern flavors. The recognizable ultra dry groove, relentless chugging riffs and deep growls are accompanied by subtle tempo changes and extremely varied guitar work, resulting in quite a high degree of technical complexity, according to SÉANCE standards.
The first half of the album harbors some damn strong material. “They”, “Wasted” and the blistering shredder “Invocation” are a nearly perfect continuation of their work on “Saltrubbed Eyes”. This pure Death Metal filth integrates compelling chugging rhythms, intense groove riffs and impressive solos with enough variation and muscle to demonstrate their semi-legendary status once again.
Therefore I was thunderstruck to hear the futile attempt to cover Nikolai Korsakov’s operatic tune “Flight Of The Bumblebee” in “Flight Of The Wicked” in the middle of the album. Ok, it gave some breathing room but basically offered little more than a strange bass/guitar snare plunking session. It soon became clear that this was the turning point of the album, an omen of (bad) things to come…
From “Choose Your Eternity” on my extolment really went downhill. Their run-of-the mill death ‘n roll approach on this track surely wasn’t the best idea to breathe new life in their repertoire. An even more uncomfortable feeling overwhelmed me while hearing “Revel In Death”. This track is another resting point which seemed like an acoustic reverie of the long lost high days of Swedish Death Metal to me. Another quite superfluous song... “Prisoner 666” and “Burn Me” have their moments but lack the intensity and complexity of the opening 15 minutes. The only track where SÉANCE doesn’t seem under the weather on the second half of the album is on “Forever Haunted”: A no-nonsense aggressive yet melodic double-bass driven steamroller.
SÉANCE’s comeback album can get quite rough around the edges due to some clearly inferior (filler?) material, nonetheless the first part of “Awakening Of The Gods” remains a monolith of aggressive songs drenched in modern ideas and a mature flair. SÉANCE prove that they earn a place in the sub top of old school Death Metal legends, however their blade cuts a little too hard on the bad side to label this album as a new semi-classic.
Listen to: “They”, “Wasted, “Invocation’ and “Forever Haunted”.
(Online April 9, 2009)