Urkraft - The True Protagonist - (7/10)

Published on May 28, 2022

Tracklist:

  1. Uforskyldte Sår
  2. The True Protagonist
  3. I Got Blood
  4. I Bring Nothing to the Table
  5. The Human Resignation
  6. The Burden Without a Name
  7. Well Intentioned Sons
  8. Go, Get Your Bones
  9. Changing Manscape
  10. Prepare the Flesh
  11. We Can't Recognize

Genre:

Melodic Death

Label:

Massacre Records

Playing Time:

43:22

Country:

Denmark

Year:

2022

Website:

Visit page

I first became interested in Urkraft when they broke up. That usually frustrates a fan, finding that the band you have discovered has ceased to exist, but the Danes had other frustrations available to me too. You see, although The Inhuman Aberration had been released through Earache Records and A Scornful Death was made available for free a year before the split in 2009, the formula of groovy thrash mixed with melodic death metal had been done better by plenty of my favourite bands already, ranging from The Haunted to Nightrage to another Danish outfit, Hatesphere. Both those releases had a pretty solid handle on the formula for melodeathrash (to give it a snappy category name), yet failed to distinguish themselves from the broader spectrum of similar acts and indeed from each other at times. Put bluntly, Urkraft were a second-rate band in a style that I liked a lot. And now they are back, not actually with their first album since reforming in 2019, but their second, The True Protagonist.

 

 

The first point of difference between this newer incarnation and the old emerges in the rhythmic diversity of Richardt Olsen, who picked up the sticks from where Mikael Skou Jørgensen left them. My largest complaint against the former albums was that Urkraft tended to get stuck within a single rhythmic pattern on a majority of songs, something remedied now by a more regular death metal approach in places and a generally mixed attitude to groove, which I felt prevailed too strongly on The Inhuman Aberration particularly. Nothing against groove in faster metal styles, just when it becomes monotonous I can’t really support it that earnestly. Those loping, stomping grooves can still be felt on cuts like “I Bring Nothing to the Table”, though noticeably worked in between sections of atmospheric build-up and technical riffing, where Kim Song Sternkopf (The Arcane Order) adds some brutal snarls that contrast Thomas Strømvig Pedersen’s more bullish but largely quite clear shouts. Such variety befits the longest song on the album, yet the sub-3 minute “The Human Resignation” that follows displays an equally welcome attitude to rhythmic diversity in less than half the time.

 

 

Note that, in terms of preference, I actually found it easier to get into the physical riffing of former Urkraft than the musically evolved style on The True Protagonist, since I feel the band have shifted their sights away from that slightly uncool niche of melodeathrashing and towards a sound more in line with current extremity. An identical move can be seen with Darkane’s new Inhuman Spirits album too. Nevertheless, features that formerly distracted a little from the exuberant grooves now play a more important role, such as the subtle crafting that the second guitar employs in Urkraft’s songs. Rather than playing solos during instrumental breaks, the quintet tend to allow one six-stringer to lurk behind the riffing and add in ominous shading to bolster the atmosphere, most often during slower passages. That steals a bit of momentum from the songs as a whole despite a mostly mid-paced array. “Well Intentioned Sons” proves a rare example of both these slower lead parts and a full-blown solo, though expect no explosion of shredding, since an extremely measured approach is taken to the occasion.

 

 

It thus falls to me to resort to cliché and call Urkraft’s fifth full-length a mature album. I suppose the group may not mind that, but most readers will certainly know that the word “mature” often hides the adjective of “boring.” I can’t claim to be thoroughly riveted with the 11 songs, partly because they lack musical and vocal hooks, while I also feel that the heavier approach taken here hurts the album by putting too much noise into the mix without the advantage of streamlined sections, thus overwhelming me even though 43 minutes shouldn’t seem that long. There is also the amusing coincidence of expert producer Tue Madson (alongside Simon Sonne) being responsible for sound duties, which allows me to say that he is “the Tue protagonist” in the resulting mediocrity of effect, sonic impact withstanding. I’m left repeating familiar words about Urkraft regardless of the changes made over the last decade and a half, such as how the songs on The True Protagonist blur slightly into one, as well as the continued struggle for these guys to match up to Hatesphere. Although the cover art of this release helps it achieve some distinction, I’d still prefer to go and listen to Reduced to Flesh another few times.

Author: Edmund Morton

Edmund is from Slough, England and has lived in Hefei, China since 2014. As the saying goes: where the head is, home is. His head is filled with heavy metal and wry thoughts.

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