Burned In Effigy – Rex Mortem – Album Review

Artist: Burned In Effigy

Album Title: Rex Mortem

Label: Independent Release

Date of Release:  28 January 2022

When it comes to melodic death metal, everyone knows that I’m a big fan. I like a wide range of bands and styles that come under the increasingly vast umbrella of ‘melodeath’. However, I’ve always been a bigger fan of the Omnium Gatherum or Dark Tranquillity approaches, with less of a love for the Black Dahlia Murder, more US style, that has more of a slight ‘core’ edge to it. This is relevant because, when it comes to this debut album from Chicago-based Burned In Effigy, there’s a distinct sense that this quintet have been influenced more by their compatriots than their Scandinavian counterparts. And yet, I will concede that there is an awful lot to enjoy with ‘Rex Mortem’, certainly a lot more than I was initially expecting.

The strongest single element on ‘Rex Mortem’ is, without doubt, the guitar playing. New guitarists Mike Hisson and Steve Bacakos certainly leave a large imprint upon ‘Rex Mortem’, an album chock full of sharp, incisive riffs, neoclassical runs, and dextrous solos aplenty, meaning that lovers of the six-string will be in aural heaven after a couple of spins. That’s not to say that the rest of the band are slouches, because that’s definitely not the case. Indeed, the third new member of the Burned In Effigy family, vocalist Mark ‘Smedy’ Smedbron, transforms what was originally an instrumental quartet into an aggressive, snarling quintet. Equally adept at low, floor-shaking growls and higher-pitched screams nearer the black metal spectrum, Smedbron rounds out what bassist Matt Watkins and drummer Eddie Dec gave birth to in the beginning under the Burned In Effigy moniker.

I shall begin my deeper dive into the music with my favourite track, ‘Atlas’ that finds itself buried at number six in the running order of an album that is comprised of eight songs with a succinct 33-minute lifespan. I just love the opening melody, so bright and breezy, as well as catchy as hell. It’s a slightly more sedate song in many ways, with less overt guitar histrionics and a slower, more mid-tempo pace. This allows for a big chorus to make a powerful impression. But it is also the quiet, melodic sections that catch the ear, especially when juxtaposed by the heavier parts of the track; this is just a wonderfully mature and impressive song, not to mention immediate and irresistible too.

If you’re looking for an example of what Burned In Effigy are more consistently about, then you can do worse than head back to the opening track, ‘Doomsayer’. The pace from the outset is rather impressive, galloping along as if the lives of the quintet depended upon it. That said, you can tell that all-out attack is not within Burned In Effigy’s modus operandi because there are moments of calm within the otherwise heady composition that wears those neoclassical tags like a badge of honour. This maturity, when further enhanced by the technical prowess of all concerned, is incredibly exciting for an outfit so young. It hints at a bright future indeed.

Back to the hear and now and ‘Artorius’ is another cracking track that offers something again, just a little different. The bass of Matt Watkins is, to these ears, more prominent, as the band explore more progressive ideas, allowing more extended instrumental passages, more ebb and flow, and certainly more by way of subtle experimentation. Mind you, when called upon, Smedy does his level best to remind us all just how savage and aggressive Burned In Effigy remain with some truly gnarly vocals.

One of the fastest and most overtly neoclassical has to be the rather delightful ‘Nightfall’, which sees flamboyant leads, solos, and clean melodies all over the place. Just about every direction you turn, you’re assaulted by some measure of impressive musicianship, be it drums, bass, or guitar. And yet the Americans manage to ensure that it remains a cohesive composition that still feels like a song. I’m beginning to become very impressed here.

Just when you think that Burned In Effigy must have runout of oomph or ideas, they drop ‘The Empyricist’ in your lap. It stands alongside the aforementioned ‘Atlas’ as one of the most immediate songs on ‘Rex Mortem’ thanks to another deliciously upbeat and ‘friendly’ chorus featuring a super melody that cannot avoid lifting one’s mood thanks to its effervescent, playful quality.

For those looking for some more modern touches, ‘Hades’ would be a good bet, thanks to the pronounced ‘core’ aspects, and the chugging riffs that allow neck muscles to be exercised nicely. But even here, there is enough melody, enough panache, and enough moderated flamboyance to give the song its own identity, keeping out of the ‘heard that a million times before’ trap.

To be brutally honest, there’s not an awful lot to pick holes in with this record, especially when you consider that this is a debut full-length featuring not one but three new members. Things could have gone horribly wrong here, but they didn’t. Instead, what we’re faced with is a melodic death metal release from across the pond that has impressed me more than the vast majority of others from the USA in recent times. It is technically proficient, exuberant, flashy but not overly so, and features plenty of proper songs that are memorable and well thought out. ‘Rex Mortem’ isn’t the finished article by any means, but the signs are all there that Burned In Effigy might be a big name within the melodic death metal genre in years to come. I’m certainly looking forward to finding out – come join me!

The Score of Much Metal: 85%

Check out my other 2022 reviews here:

Silent Skies – Nectar

Celeste – Assassine(s)

Abyssus – Death Revival

SOM – The Shape Of Everything

Ashes Of Ares – Emperors And Fools

Beriedir – AQVA

Lalu – Paint The Sky

Nocturna – Daughters Of The Night

Battle Beast – Circus Of Doom

Lee McKinney – In The Light Of Knowledge

Descent – Order Of Chaos

Aethereus – Leiden

Toundra – Hex

Ilium – Quantum Evolution Event EP

Power Paladin – With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel

Necrophagous – In Chaos Ascend

Infected Rain – Ecdysis

Wilderun – Epigone

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2021 reviews

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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