Album Review: Deadlock - The Arsonist

Metal is not known for its beauty. It can be many things, beautiful included, but if there is one thing metal is known for, it's stringy-haired heaviness. Metal is not the music of the beautiful people, and we wouldn't love it so much if it was. But somewhere in calculations, the balance needed to keep metal from falling off the edge of relevance gets lost. Hearing as many albums a year as I do, which is still but a fraction, there is a titanic chasm of possibility few bands have jumped headlong into.

Mixing the dirty heaviness of extreme metal with more palatable elements is something that must be done carefully to be well-accepted. Unfortunately, few seem open to the integration of softer elements in their metal, and most of the bands that bring these influences in do so in a manner that doesn't fit their image. So called 'beauty and the beast' metal is one of those ideas that sounds good on paper, until you actually hear it, and the mix is as stable as oil and water.

Deadlock is the rare band that throws everything into a blender without having it come out sounding like mismatched Legos from random sets. Unlike the bands that employ operatic divas who can sing out of the stratosphere, Deadlock actually makes the smart decision of anchoring their softer side still in the rock world. After “The Great Pretender” is ushered in with gnarly detuned riffs and sweep arpeggios, a classical voice would throw the whole proceedings into disarray. Much like vector math, two plus two does not always equal four, and for those dual vocal bands, often it nets in zero.

Listening to “The Arsonist”, I'm reminded of Scar Symmetry, another band that now employs the dual vocalist trick. Like that band, Deadlock is more effective at blending pop elements into their melodic death metal than would be obvious on first glance. Sabine Scherer is the band's best weapon, the element that helps them stand out from the pack. As a metal band, Dealock is competent, but doesn't do much to move the needle. Their riffing is at times nifty, but not original enough to make me stand p and take notice. Likewise, their harsh vocals aren't inventive enough with their rhythmic choices to stand up on their own, so the clean vocals and pop touches are what make or break the record.

“I'm Gone” features some strong melodic work from Sabine, while “Dead City Sleepers” lets her stretch out her voice in a way more akin to the other bands who follow the pattern. In both cases, the heavier moments are given new life by opening up into more accessible movements. It's a trick of songwriting that is sorely lacking in most extreme metal, but juxtaposition is the key to making the extremes sharp. Deadlock is able to do this, while so many others are not.

Track after track, Deadlock delivers the big choruses that elevate “The Arsonist” above being simply death metal with clean vocals. Whether the title track's strong hook, or the vocal power shown in “Darkness Divine”, there's something in every song for fans across the spectrum.

If I'm being honest, “The Arsonist” is not an album I'm going to listen to all that often. It's not my favorite style of music, so the odds of me picking it up off the shelf and spinning it aren't that high. But what I can say is that Deadlock is a good band, “The Arsonist” is a very good album for what it tries to do, and I'm pleasantly surprised to say I would emphatically recommend it to anyone more in tune with this kind of metal. In fact, “The Arsonist” is probably the best extreme metal album with female vocals I've heard since Luna Mortis' sadly underrated and forgotten “The Absence”.

“The Arsonist” is definitely worth checking out.

Chris C

Music Reviewer

Chris is a professional intellectual. He graciously shares his deep thoughts on the world of music with the world. You're welcome.

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