Review: Convulse – Deathstar

Convulse are a death metal band from Finland that are probably not as widely known as they should be. They had their first active phase in the early 90s, where they mixed old school death with some hints of rock’n’roll and progressive elements to spice things up. From 1994 until 2013 they were on hiatus, and since then released two full lengths. Now they are back again with Deathstar, their 5th record overall.

First off the bat I had to double-check whether I was listening to the correct recording when I first played Deathstar. The promo-blurb titled this progressive death metal, but I had a hard time hearing much death metal here at all, until I encountered the first growled vocals. If I had to give an elevator pitch to this record, it would probably sound like this: Imagine a big jam session with musicians from Pink Floyd, Rush, Porcupine Tree and Judas Priest, but every now and then a somewhat shy alternate-universe version of George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher steps to the mic to deliver some vocals. Confused yet? So was I. But let me dissuade you from any notions that I dislike this record. Quite the contrary is the case – let me elaborate.

The trio of musicians that make Convulse (Rami Jämsä – guitar & vocals, Juha Telenius – bass, Rolle Markos – drums) clearly are all very skilled on their weapon of choice. They also seem to have a very clear vision of what they want to make, and the balls to make it happen – any genre distinctions be damned. Deathstar consists of 9 songs and reaches a playtime of 41 minutes, and consists of progressive rock/metal drum and bass grooves, a guitar that is sometimes psychedelic, sometimes old school heavy metal, sometimes death metal, sometimes rock’n’roll. Heck, in the song Chernobyl it alternates between death metal riffs and straight up surf melodies – with the fitting reverb and all. Mixed in with this are atmospheric synths to create some otherworldy soundscapes. On top of that you have the oldest of all the old school death metal growls, plus some spoken work passages. This all merges in a conglomeration that should not work, but does so extremely well – probably due to the effective songwriting.

Another big plus point is the sound of this record. Deathstar was recorded and mixed all in analog, and it sounds dynamic, warm, clear, massive… throw in some more words to describe a good sound, and you got it. Given the smorgasbord of things going on here, I don’t exactly know who to recommend this to. It might not be for fans of traditional death metal, as there is very little death metal here. Then again the vocals might be off-putting for fans of progressive rock. I think I will just go ahead and recommend it to everyone. To quote Rami Jämsä himself: “Deathstar will be an interesting experience for those who listen to music with an open mind.” – I can agree 100%. Here is a band that is doing what they believe in with confidence and style, free of boundaries, and for that alone I give them lots of credit. The fact that I really love the resulting work makes this even better. What a brilliant record!

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