Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ragestorm - The Thin Line Between Hope and Ruin (2016)

Italy's Ragestorm originally started out as a joke back in 2004, but the band have been going on for more than a decade now. In all that time, they've never released a major debut and we finally have that here in the raw, but meaningful The Thin Line Between Hope and Ruin. The lyrics are based on various conspiracies, some of which I believe are possible, while others are truly science fiction. (I believe that Reptilians are a joke that Icke personally uses to discredit and not draw too much attention to some of the other more considerable things he mentions, yes – regardless of the books he's written. You'll do a lot when you're trying to government agencies off your back.) In any case, we get a mixture of melodic death and groove metal, which still sounds at a bit of an infantile stage, yet still manages to make a dent. “Acid Tears” sounds like one of the better mid-era Hypcorsy tracks, while closer “Reaching The Impossible” reminds me a little more of Insomnium. You'll also hear Dark Tranquillity, In Flames and At The Gates references here, there's no getting around that.

My only problem with the record is that there simply isn't enough here to really differentiate them from other melodic death metal acts of both the past and present. I'm hearing some nice leads here and there, some sweet guitar solos every once in a while and whatnot – but aside from a little electronic piece in “Hari Sheldon's Speech Feat. The Boylerz” there's not much here that really distinguishes these guys from other acts. They're just kind of run of the mill melodic death metal, and they'll need to really step it up a notch before I can really take notice of them. Granted, the record is a solid listen that has it's share of memorable bells and whistles, but I don't think it's anything to write home about yet.

That being said, these guys should definitely keep going and hopefully the next record will offer a little bit more or even a great deal more than this one. You know, it could be the fact that the vocals are so damn loud and the guitars are pushed so close to the back that the whole listen just rubbed me the wrong way. Perhaps the frontman just needs to turn himself down a notch or two and see how it sounds. Go back and listen to some of those early melodic death records – I never remembered the vocals being that high in the mix. As a matter of fact, I'd rather it if I could barely hear the vocals among the instruments because that's how it used to be. The vocals were there, but they were just a different instrument. Think of In Flames Whoracle for example. That's a favorite of mine and I'm sure it's one of yours too. Never were Anders' vocals that loud in the mix. Let's even go to Japanese melodeath like Veiled In Scarlet. You can't really hear the vocals that much, but they're there. What you do notice is the melodies, the leads. I know it's too late to repress the record, but these vocals have just got to come down. I want to hear more of the guitars, more of the drums, more of the performance – not blaring vocals in my ear. If they'd fix this, maybe I could even come to give this record a better score. When one element is louder than the others, it kills the performance as a whole and I learned that while mixing our third album. Less is more.

All this being said and noted, The Thin Line Between Hope and Ruin is still just a first step for these guys, and it shows that they definitely want to be a serious melodic death metal act. They just need a little bit more work and we'll see where they go from there. It's a bit tough to recommend the disc, but I wouldn't shy you away from it if you were interested.

(11 Tracks, 52:00)


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