The history of heavy metal has seen bands rise from all corners of the earth, but when the numbers are crunched, the majority of bands who have achieved a degree of notoriety come from a select few regions. It all started in England, then spread to America, Germany, and the countries of Scandinavia. Between them, they have amassed the most numerous and most influential metal bands we have ever seen. There are countries outside of those cornerstones that have made an impact on metal, but each time a band comes from somewhere else, it's almost viewed as an accident. Exactly why this is could be due to the assumption on our parts that those are the places metal is supposed to come from, that music from anywhere else is merely pretending to be what we know it isn't, or it could have something to do with the very culture of metal, and how for all the growth we have seen, it has yet to seep into relevance everywhere it could.
I mention this because of my own reaction when faced with Destinity, the melodic death metal band hailing from that bastion of heaviness known as France. This kind of music is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of France, and even though their countrymen Gojira have been able to find success and become one of the most talked about bands on the scene, there is an unconscious stigma that comes along with being from a place we don't expect to hear metal call home.
It isn't a fair burden for the band to carry, but it does make their job harder, as does their choice of style. Melodic death metal had its heyday, and while the elements of the style have continued to live on, the package as a whole is no longer on the forefront of popularity. Coming from France, and playing a style few are clamoring to hear more of, the deck is stacked against Destinity, and only a great album will be able to rise above all of that and make a real impact.
“Black Sun Rising” tries to do that right off the bat, blasting old-school chugging rhythms, capped off with plenty of melodic guitar lines, and an eased-off vocal in the chorus that does its best to hook the listener. It's a bit of an anachronism considering the state of metal, but it's one that is welcome. Amidst the efforts to crush the listener into submission, it's nice to have a bit of a reprieve and remember that melody isn't incompatible with even extreme metal. What made classic melodic death metal the phenomenon it was at the time was the ability to appeal to fans of extreme heaviness with the relentless riffing and guttural vocals, but then turn around and embrace a larger audience with what were essentially arena rock hooks.
That dichotomy, and the ability to balance the elements of the music, is what Destinity does so well. Songs like “Reap My Scars” rip through verses of straight-ahead death metal growled by one of the better vocalists doing it, only to let the song climax with the kind of hook that should be anathema to everything that has come before. That they are able to sew the two together and make them work as a cohesive whole is a sign of strong songwriting, which immediately elevates “Resolve In Crimson” above the majority of similar bands.
The highlight of the album is the progressive-tinged “Can't Stand The Sight”, which stretches the format just enough to bring a new dynamic into the mix. The song mixes the usual elements together, but introduces bubbling synths in the background to give texture, a stronger hook than expected, and an acoustic section that breaks up the flow in the best of ways. Even a short album of this kind of music needs to have a bit of diversity, which is ably provided by this song. It would be welcome on that basis alone, but the fact it is the strongest composition as well makes it even more of an achievement. The change of pace isn't often the best song on an album, but when it is, the success must be noted.
The one thing I can't escape when listening to the album is the feeling that I'm living in a time capsule. This style is so ingrained in a time that has passed us by that it's difficult to not look at it through nostalgic eyes. It does a disservice to the record, I realize, but it is inevitable. What it doesn't do is negate the strides the record makes, as it is a solid collection of songs that does its job well. This is nothing we haven't heard before, but it's not done this well very often anymore. For that reason, it's hard to find anything to fault.