Artist: Follow The Cipher
Album Title: Follow The Cipher
Label: Nuclear Blast
Date Of Release: 11 May 2018
Sweden’s Follow The Cipher are a new band on the heavy metal block, with this self-titled record their debut offering. And yet, despite only being in existence for a few short years, here’s a band about which I could already write a thousand words before even discussing this album itself.
Hailing from the Swedish city of Falun, they share their hometown with the likes of Sabaton and Twilight Force to name just two. And those Sabaton links are important because Follow The Cipher brainchild Ken Kängström is a firm friend of the tank-obsessed band. In fact, Kängström co-wrote and co-produced various Sabaton songs alongside Joakim Brodén. One of the most notable collaborations occurred with the song ‘Carolus Rex’, a track that fittingly has been covered here to close out ‘Follow The Cipher’.
Alongside guitarist Kängström, in Follow The Cipher you’ll also find vocalist Linda Toni Grahn, drummer Karl Löfgren, guitarist Viktor Carlsson and bassist Jonas Asplind. And together, they create a striking sound, one that is grounded within the loose confines of power metal, but which extends far beyond in many respects. It is, at once, a very familiar sound and also intriguingly original.
In the accompanying ‘War And Peace’-sized press release, the names of Sabaton, In Flames and Nightwish are mentioned when trying to describe the follow The Cipher sonic output. To a certain extent, I’d agree. The riffs and no-nonsense power metal attitude is certainly out of the Sabaton school of music, whilst it is difficult to argue with the cinematic similarities with Nightwish. I can also hear In Flames at times, although we’re most definitely referring to their latter-day output. On top of all this, I’d also throw in a healthy dose of Amaranthe for good measure, as well as a few djent-y influences here and there.
And it is because of all this that I find myself a little confused by Follow The Cipher. I’m left wondering whether the quintet actually know what they want to achieve and what their identity genuinely is. Are they an out-an-out power metal band? Are they a modern metal band? Are they something else entirely? Does it even matter?
I say this because, for all of the confusion, I can’t help but get caught up in much of the music on this surprisingly good debut.
The opening song sets Follow The Cipher off in great fashion. Entitled ‘Enter The Cipher’, it is a brisk-paced power metal composition that features chunky riffs, lashings of keys, a pounding rhythm-heavy verse and a giant chorus that makes an immediate impact. Equally as impactful is lead vocalist Grahn who possesses real attitude. I can’t profess to love her voice as it is a little trebly for my personal tastes but she can certainly belt it out with passion and conviction. The solo, of which there are a few on this release, is nicely urgent and dextrous.
Now normally, I can say that the opening song on an album helps to set the tone for what is to follow. Not here though, because follow-up ‘Valkyria’ takes us in a different direction. Opening with prominent modern electronic sounds which dominate large sections of the song, it is a much more modern-sounding affair. And then, once the clean male vocals and growls shared between Kängström, Carlsson and Asplind join Grahn’s even higher-pitched delivery, I’m struck by the Amaranthe similarities. The song is undeniably catchy as hell and thoroughly enjoyable but it makes me wonder quite what’s next.
The answer, via ‘My Soldier’ is a more cinematic affair, with more modern electronics as well as lush, multi-layered orchestration. It is ballad-like in nature, but even so, the guitars are almost djent in their tone and delivery. The chorus is another winner however; it is a sprawling, majestic beast that compliments the grandiose trappings of the song.
‘Winterfall’ is another cut from a similar mould, although it fails to hit the same heights as its direct predecessor. Nevertheless, it has a definite charm, with melody at its core. The same could also be said for the equally pleasant mid-tempo and cinematic ‘Titan’s Call’ as the mid-section of the album threatens to lose a little of the early impetus that was created.
However, in steps the groovy, anthemic monster of ‘The Rising’. More modern electronic sounds float above the chugging riffs and forceful rhythms below, but Grahm gives one of her best performances here, with impossibly high notes hit within an infectious chorus full of feeling. The stadium-friendly male vocals that are injected just add to the overall power of the song, meaning it’ll be a live favourite for sure.
‘A Mind’s Escape’ tweaks the approach of the band once again. The bass of Asplind really comes to the fore within this particular track, a song that has a more ‘progressive’ vibe to it, in terms of the variety on offer. The metalcore ingredients are slightly at odds with a soothing, saccharine chorus and the pronounced symphonic overtones. But strangely, it works, thanks to the total commitment of the band.
Not happy with the variety offered to date, ‘Play With Fire’ then dials the dark cinematics up another notch, creating another new atmosphere, whilst stomper ‘I Revive’ features a NWOBHM-meets-thrash riff and which owes a lot to the aforementioned Sabaton. ‘Starlight’ then hits us over the head with more djent-y muscularity and more pronounced male vocals before Follow The Cipher’s grandiose interpretation of ‘Carolus Rex’ closes things out excellently.
So how do I sum up this debut effort from Follow The Cipher? I think the best way is to say that it shows massive amounts of promise and I’m left in no doubt that the future is very bright for these five Swedes. There are some great songs on ‘Follow The Cipher’ and some very ambitious, laudable ideas. When they nail it, they really nail it. I just hope that between now and album number two, the band get to grips with their sound and make the next record a slightly more succinct affair, with a slightly clearer identity.
The Score Of Much Metal: 8
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:
Spock’s Beard – Noise Floor
Ihsahn – Amr
The Fierce And The Dead – The Euphoric
Millennial Reign – The Great Divide
Subsignal – La Muerta
At The Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself
Dimmu Borgir – Eonian
Hekz – Invicta
Widow’s Peak – Graceless EP
Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik – Hugsjá
Frequency Drift – Letters to Maro
Æpoch – Awakening Inception
Crematory – Oblivion
Wallachia – Monumental Heresy
Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
MØL – Jord
Aesthesys – Achromata
Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages
Memoriam – The Silent Vigil
Kino – Radio Voltaire
Borealis – The Offering
W.E.T. – Earthrage
Auri – Auri
Purest of Pain – Solipsis
Susperia – The Lyricist
Structural Disorder – …And The Cage Crumbles In the Final Scene
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Divine Realm – Nordicity
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Poem – Unique
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin
Apathy Noir – Black Soil
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
Conjurer – Mire
Jukub Zytecki – Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse