There is an inherent danger in labeling something 'Melodic Death Metal' these days, and not without good reason. We are talking about a genre that has been re-hashing the same sound for more or less the last decade and a half, and it's showing little sign of recovering. So when it comes to THE ABSENCE's debut album, "From Your Grave," there is good news and bad news.
The bad news is that "From Your Grave" does nothing to buck the aforementioned trend. The good news is that, despite earning no originality points whatsoever, THE ABSENCE have created a truly enjoyable Melodic Death Metal album.
"From Your Grave" presents a band that has taken a long, hard look at their stagnant genre and chosen to step it up to the next level. That isn't to say they are exactly in the ranks of the elite, but at least a notch above the norm. Although much of the songwriting is fairly generic, there are excellent riffs hidden here and there (the lead during the chorus of "Heaven Ablaze" has been stuck in my head for days). The vocals are standard growls, solidly executed yet nothing special. But what THE ABSENCE do best, to put it simply, is shred. In fact, all the best moments on the album come from the solos, which combine both great musicianship and an outstanding ear for melody. They play fast, that's for sure, but every note is well thought out and has its purpose.
Lucky for them, these impressive solo sections are present on a track-by-track basis, sometimes more than once per song. Combined with some great riffing on a fairly regular basis, "From Your Grave" is a solid release. And even though it doesn't do much to stimulate one's musical intelligence, it's definitely fun to listen to from time to time. If you're looking to get into THE ABSENCE, though, I would skip right past this album and delve into their later releases, which present a much more mature version of what is heard on here.
(Online June 6, 2011)