Review: Strydegor – Isolacracy

Strydegor, the guardian of the mead, is not an unknown player in the melodic death metal world. Originally being formed as a Viking metal band called The Alphes, back in 2005, they have celebrated their first decade quite a while ago already. After renaming themselves to Strydegor in 2007 they started making name for themselves, resulting in five releases in six years. And then silence sets in around the band. Even after hinting towards a new release earlier it still took them a few years to get ready to actually give birth to their new album. Until finally, on Friday the 13th, the band, nowadays consisting of vocalist/guitaist Florian Kunde, guitarist Daniel Hauschild, bassist Martin Schmidt and drummer Immanuel Promnitz  released their fourth full-length fittingly called Isolacracy. Not new to a genre change, they pretty much turned from Viking to melodic death metal a while ago, they appear to steer towards another genre change with this album as the share of death metal seems to have declined in favor of heavy metal. More about that further into this release, perhaps this offers the explanation for their long absence.

It starts pretty furious with Innocence Corroded, well, after an introductory piece called Beware the Beast Man that is. The unofficial album opener has, much like the entire release, many faces. The tight riffing and ditto rhythm section is a more than promising sign for the death metal fan, especially with the aggressive growls chipping in. However,  both the chorus and the slower intermezzo near the end of the song are sure indicators things will not remain like this. And sure enough, the next song, Lucid, instantly proves these indicators are right. With its overly present clean vocals that in my opinion are a challenge to consume at times, its sing-along chorus and drastic drop in aggressiveness this can in no way be called death metal anymore. Not even the occasional grunt can change that. By now I fear for this release.

Luckily Lucid proves to be the, again in my opinion, low point of the release as the rest of the songs, though never reaching the level of quality of Innocence Corroded, are much better to digest. The recovery sets in immediately with Stars and Strife, which is a strong song that has a nice vibe with its repetitive howling riff. From then on it’s a blend of heavy and melodic death metal in various compositions that determines the pace and atmosphere of the songs, with the exception of the instrumental acoustic piece called Into the Unknown. As I often feel with ‘songs’ like this I see no need or use for this, although one might think: prophecy or even an explanation perhaps? Anyway, with Escape they pick up where they had left before this, and again I find the clean vocals a tad difficult to absorb. I’m still not sure if it’s the vocals themselves that make it so hard for me to like them, Florian’s grunting by far exceeds his clean singing as far as I’m concerned, or the combination between them and the tunes. Either way I prefer Florian grunting, although, admittedly, he certainly has his moments when singing clean as well.

In all honesty I am still in doubt about this album, even after several turns. I seriously dig their death metal edge, but I am undecided about liking their more clean, heavy metal side, so I for one am not fully convinced about their choice of changing styles being the right one. Yet. I specifically say ‘yet’, because I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt as genre changes, especially when they’re so vast, take time to adapt and get acquainted with. If anything the guys show their definite competence in making music, which leads me to believe that, given time and experience, they can and will pull this style change off. Having said this, I can only conclude that I have mixed feelings here. Overall it’s an album that scores a solid number on average, with a few definite highlights in the form of full songs like Innocence Corroded and As April Slowly Fades and moments like the intermezzo in Oceans and the riff in Stars and Strife among others. On the other hand it also has a few flaws that are, for me, hard to overlook, with Lucid as the most striking of them. Only one solution here: judge for yourself.

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