Old school death metal is making a comeback around the world and apparently South Africa is no exception to this rule. In fact, as I’ve already referenced, South Africa is an up-and-coming scene that seems to have little cohesive sound but still has a lot of talent in it. Because of that, whenever you get a demo from one of these bands it’s always a surprise, and this was an old school death metal surprise that came out in the form of A Walk with the Wicked‘s debut disc Architects of Sadism. It was also a pleasant surprise, at that.
First, A Walk with the Wicked pulled no expenses on producing this record as it’s a professional grade recording. The sound is mastered short of Too Damn Loud giving the instruments a bit more room than you hear on a lot of records these day. This is definitely appreciated and the songs are better served by it as well, showing off the fat guitar tone and burly low end of the band. Vocally the band is in traditional death metal territory, guttural growls and this works perfectly with the sound which borders on the line between Bloodbath and At the Gates giving it a nice old school death metal feel, while still hinting at the 90s Swedish death metal love that we all share.
What makes Architects of Sadism a really great record to listen to is an infectious groove that shows up throughout the record in various places. This music is meant to be played live because it will induce mad headbanging and the throwing of horns, and this is obvious right from the get-go “The Smouldering Remains.” This pace and groove is maintained through the next song and really doesn’t go awry until “Ancient Servant” where something surprised me and, unfortunately bored me. Herein be there “half time mosh riffs,” or as they’re known to everyone who rips on deathcore and metalcore “a breakdown.” I know that breakdowns have existed in various types of metal throughout time, but since about the early 2000s every time I hear a quarter note crash under a chuggy riff, I cringe and instinctively pull away. That said, they saved themselves with a fantastic solo and a Nileesque melody over the breakdown, but more breakdowns surfaced on later tracks to a less than warm welcome from this Angry Metal Guy.
My other big complaint about this record is really a taste thing. There is more than one place where the arrangement throws a riff back and forth between the left and right speaker. One time this might have been OK, but more than that it started to feel contrived and a bit silly, really. This it the kind of thing that I think a professional producer would have discouraged and I chalk it up to that, but it points to the fact that these guys are still in their amateur stage despite the highly professional recording and self-presentation.
All things considered, however, my complaints are minor and this EP is very good. The composition is solid overall, the riffs are memorable and groovy and the whole damn band is obviously very talented. So this is a promising 26 minutes of old school death metal with few flaws and a hell of a lot of room for growth, experimentation and a definite path for spearheading their material out into the world. So, what are you waiting for? Support the underground with your wallet and take A Walk with the Wicked.
See what I did there?