Album Review: As Above... So Below - Artemis Blade

Artist: Artemis Blade

Album: As Above... So Below

Genre: Melodic Death Metal

Review by Samantha Wolstenholme

Six-piece melodic death metal outfit Artemis Blade have overcome many obstacles to bring their debut release to life. Creeping onto the Sydney metal scene a few years ago as something of a supergroup of ex-local metal band members, the six-piece have now unleashed their debut album As Above…So Below, the culmination of two years of dedicated effort towards realising their shared vision of “heavy hitting melodic death metal” with a distinctly European flavour. Despite some key production flaws and occasionally rather heavy-handed vocal lines, the album represents a solid first effort from a promising fledgling band.

Short instrumental opening track 'Despair Descent' is highly atmospheric, and effectively builds the tension as the music crescendos towards the end. Pummeling rhythm guitars crashing in then heralds the beginning of “The Fall”, and the deftly executed, harmonised parallel lead guitar passages that follow are the first clear nod to the band’s Gothenburg melodeath influences. Rich harsh vocals roar in, and the guttural vocal echoes that ensue, combined with tight, double kick-fueled drums, effects a solid, if not wholly groundbreaking take on melodeath.

The potential ferocity of the overall sound is somewhat diminished by muted production, and it does detract from what are many examples of good songwriting and particularly excellent rhythm guitar work. Nevertheless, the album continues on rather melodically with a tasteful fade-in to the third track, 'Forsaken Light', featuring the harsh vocal talents of CJ McMahon of Thy Art is Murder. Though McMahon’s powerful delivery stands out in the track and gives it a cathartic edge, the over-reliance on question and answer-style vocals within 'Forsaken Light' does grow repetitive.

The first ballad of the album, 'Dark Ambitions', then follows, opening with some gorgeous piano melodies and a passionate guitar solo to sweep us right into ballad territory. The addition of a surprising combination of alternating spoken, harsh and clean vocals is certainly not what I was expecting, but it is refreshingly different and the clean vocalist’s silky bass is reminiscent of HIM’s Ville Valo. Fifth track 'Burn' is a real firecracker of a song, emulating Pantera and Soilwork with aggressive riffage, lightning guitar solos and searing harshes all fighting for dominance in an abrupt, explosive four-minute melting pot. This is definitely my favourite track of the album.

'Burn' is followed by the second ballad of the album, 'Murder Unheard Of', which while it offers a nice change of pace with some smooth, melancholy lead guitars and clean vocals, quickly stagnates and doesn’t seem to go anywhere. However, the album ends on a high note with the groovy, pulsating penultimate track 'As Above' showcasing intelligent songwriting and a seamless blending of groove metal and melodeath styles. Final track 'State of Cold”' a dissonant and unsettling yet powerful track with a gutsy Slipknot-esque swagger, blazes to a close with driving drums, chorus chants and blistering guitar shreds. All in all, with a runtime of barely 35 minutes, As Above…So Below is noticeably short, and with its less than ideal production value, the quality of the album is adversely impacted. However, Artemis Blade demonstrate many instances of excellent songwriting throughout this album, as well as obvious technical ability by each member. A more concerted improvement of production, and a longer run time, would see this band move from a solid starting point to realising their full musical potential.

7 out of 10.

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