Written In Blood

Soul Reaper

Nuclear Blast Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I found myself in a foul mood the other day, and decided to release my aggression in the best way I knew how, short of totally trashing my house. I went into the Pierce Memorial Archives and dug out one of the death metal releases I have yet to get to. (Sometimes, I shudder to think how many of these discs are still awaiting me in the Archives... and maybe that I've been a little too happy of late.)

In today's case, out came Sweden's own Soul Reaper and their 2000 debut release Written In Blood. (As of this writing, the band is working on their follow-up disc, though they presently are not signed to any label.) What this group does right easily outweighs anything they do wrong - and the "wrong" category has the usual complaints I have with this genre. However, this is an impressive first effort from this five-piece.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

In its most basic form, Soul Reaper is a purveyor of the almost-predictable Satanic style of death metal - and even though vocalist Christoffer Hjerten is placed high enough in the mix to separate him from the rest of the wonderful cacophony, deciphering his grunts still is best left to the experts (namely, the ones with lyric sheets). But look past the surface, and Soul Reaper shows themselves to be a band who dare to think outside the boundaries of the death metal envelope.

First and foremost is the crisp sound this group has - and if I had a listing of who was responsible for the production on this disc, I'd give them the credit they're due. All the instrumentation sounds like they're fit into a perfect balance - Tobias Kellgren's drums don't overpower Hjerten's vocals, the dual guitar attack of Johan Norman and Christoffer Hermansson is well structured, and even bassist Mikael Lang comes through the sonic attack well. If only so many other bands were able to strike this harmonic chord, they'd be better remembered.

Second, Written In Blood isn't afraid to slow things down at just the right time - the title track and "Labyrinth Of The Deathlord" are prime examples of this. Yet it sometimes feels like Soul Reaper was trying to stay away from the softening of their attack by keeping distance from slower passages. Granted, they shouldn't throw them into the songs just to do so... but somehow, I don't think this is an issue right now.

In fact, this leads to the sole complaint I have with Written In Blood - namely, the lack of contrast sometimes undermines the music. Tracks like "Seal Of Degradation" and "Ungodly" might have been more recognizable with a little more variety in the song structure. I have no complaints with content (even if I may not agree with the messages), and by no means do I have a complaint with the musicianship. But around the mid-point of this disc, I found myself drifting away, almost starting to think that I had heard this all before. This does an injustice to Soul Reaper's style.

Keep in mind, though, that this is still a young band, and if Written In Blood is a sign of things to come, these guys could well be the next stars of the death metal scene. It may have taken me some time to get to Written In Blood, but rest assured, this disc has left me eager to hear their sophomore release.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Nuclear Blast Records, and is used for informational purposes only.