Album Title: The Reprobate
Label: Century Media Records
Date Of Release: 28 April 2017
My rekindled love and affection for old school death metal shows no signs of abating any time soon, certainly not when there are albums like these being released into the wild. ‘The Reprobate’ is the second full-length release from Firespawn, a band that hadn’t previously registered on my radar.
Formed in 2012 under the original name of Fireborn, Firespawn is nothing short of a ‘super group’. I know that this is an overused cliché, but given the personnel involved with Firespawn, it is impossible to describe them any other way. The bassist is Alex Impaler (Necrophobic, Naglfar (live)), whilst the guitarists are Victor Brandt (Entombed A.D., ex-Satyricon) and Fredrik Folkare (Unleashed, Necrophobic, ex-Siebenbürgen). Upon the drum throne sits Matte Modin (Raised Fist, ex-Dark Funeral, ex-Defleshed, ex-Infernal) and up front is none other than vocalist LG Petrov (Entombed A.D., ex-Nihilist, ex-Morbid) Now, you tell me that this isn’t one hell of a line-up?
The really great thing about Firespawn, above all else, is that this is clearly not a vanity project or a cynical cash cow.
“To be doing death metal in our 40s means that we love what we are doing and love our way of Life. I don’t think any of us could see us doing something else. This is who we are. Death metal is the path we have chosen. It’s not just a musical style. It’s a lifestyle.”
So says Impaler within the accompanying press release. And Brandt agrees:
“Even though death metal is something extreme, it feels and comes natural. It’s in our blood for sure. This is something we must do. I’m not interested in doing anything else. And we all like to work hard and get things done. Blessing and curse, I guess.”
I love this attitude and one listen to ‘The Reprobate’ and you realise that this isn’t empty rhetoric either. This album is too damn good to be as a result of anything other than a genuine desire to create the kind of extreme music that these guys all clearly adore. And, although the content on this album doesn’t really offer too much by way of innovation, that doesn’t matter as far as I’m concerned. This is unashamed brutal death metal in the old school Scandinavian mould but it sounds fresh, invigorated and full of malevolent, subterranean life. You can genuinely tell that these five guys love what they are doing. Going through the motions? Not a bit of it.
Bearing in mind the clientele involved, it will come as no surprise when I throw out the names of Necrophobic, early Entombed and Dismember as just a few of the more obvious reference points within the ten-track, 45-minute affair that is ‘The Reprobate’. But in addition, there are nods in the direction of Morbid Angel for example via the churning, molten riffs of the title track.
Speaking personally, what I enjoy most about ‘The Reprobate’ is the way in which the album is brutal and uncompromising as all hell, but that this is tempered throughout by plenty of groove, atmosphere and a surprising amount of melody, albeit somewhat understated and shy in the main. That said, the opening track of the entire album, ‘Serpent of the Ocean’, has a more pronounced sense of melody and as such, has to be one of the best death metal songs I have heard this year, maybe even longer. It begins with a sinister, twisted melody that’s atmosphere-laden but within seconds it is replaced by some stunning musicianship. It goes without saying that these guys can play but the pinpoint, razor-sharp delivery of the tumult that blows the intro away is phenomenal. The riffs are superb and the rhythm section, led by the insane blastbeats of Modin bludgeon without mercy. And then there’s the chorus which is like melodic groove mana from the pits of hell. It is brutal and uncompromising but thanks to the fast-picked riffing from Brandt and Folkare, there’s a wonderful layer of melody that’s completely irresistible. And on top of it all are Petrov’s unmistakeably malevolent growls that top the music off perfectly throughout the record.
Speaking of the guitarists, I have to say that their combined talents are one of the big stand-out aspects of Firespawn’s sound on this record. The tones are just perfect for a start, full of bite and guts and wonderfully enhanced by Impaler’s impressive bass work throughout. There’s not a song that goes by where I don’t pause to admire a riff or a blazing solo and that’s rare for me, as I can often find a moment or two of filler within a death metal album of this ilk. The album is littered with dextrous and lightning-fast solos but in general, they tend to add something to the overall compositions, in part because they don’t always rely on speed alone. Take the lead break within ‘Damnatio Ad Bestias’ as a prime example. It is fast and aggressive, but it is also expressive and almost soulful in places.
‘Damnatio Ad Bestias’ is also a good example of the way in which Firespawn have almost effortlessly managed to combine savagery with groove, melody and atmosphere. It is here where the ghost of early Entombed looms largest but at the same time it isn’t simply derivative; it has its own identity.
Other favourites on ‘The Reprobate’ include ‘Generals Creed’ thanks to the blend of frenetic riffing and catchy chorus complete with a headbanging groove and tangible atmosphere. I also really enjoy ‘Death By Impalement’, yet another bruising and uncompromising slab of full-throttle death metal with great pounding riffs and an atmosphere-laden mid-section with sinister, haunting vocals.
Firespawn hope that ‘The Reprobate’ will “make you drink insane amounts of beer and bang your head for Satan.” Well, if that’s their barometer of success, they might need to brace themselves, because ‘The Reprobate’ does more than this, a lot more. Put simply, it’s another huge example of just how strong the death metal genre is in 2017.
The Score Of Much Metal: 9
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day