In 2014, my main claim to AMG fame or, if your tastes are less than impeccable, infamy, lay in awarding Alestorm Record o’ the Year for the truly excellent Sunset on the Golden Age. I did some other good deeds as well, such as spotlighting Entrapment’s top-shelf Swe-death platter Lamentations of the Flesh. These Dutchmen brought riffs to the crowded Swe-death party, and made give or take ninety percent of 2014’s partygoers look like they’d brought Zima in comparison. Two short years later and Entrapment has returned with Through Realms Unseen and I’m writing about them again, hoping as soon as I queued up the eleven new tracks that Entrapment is still good; as they say, the more things change, the more things stay the same.
And change Entrapment did. Realms tones down the aggression of Lamentations to what could be described as something more floaty, in a similar but less prog-infused vein as Horrendous from Ecdysis onwards. Through Realms Unseen is certainly more focused on Swe-death, however, primarily cribbing from Clandestine type riffing infused with some chunky Grave stuff along with the rock n’ roll swagger of Wolverine Blues and some Autopsy because, really, why not? We’re not dealing with an innovative take on metal, but Lamentations certainly wasn’t one either and it fared remarkably well because of it.
The Wolverine Blues influence comes into play with simplistic song structures, which actually serves “Static Convulsion” well. It’s a series of quality riffs, with the verse’s use of bass and dual guitar interplay being a memorable highlight. “Dominant Paradigm” recalls Lamentations in a big way once it gets off the ground, with something close to the confident riffing and lead work that characterized this record’s predecessor. “Self Inflicted Malnutrition” merges aggressive, old-school riffcraft with the comparatively airier Horrendous influence well, closing Through Realms Unseen with a decisive success. The title track is the most successful stab at a more concentrated type of death n’ roll here, and its burly groove in the verse transitions well to a simple and memorable lead in its chorus. The requisite “ugh” vocal hits are there, and it’s a catchy hit in a subgenre that has nearly come to define the term hit and miss.
On the death n’ roll note, opener “Omission” doesn’t fare as well. It’s too laid-back, jettisoning the intensity of Lamentations for what, in the chorus, comes across as more of an alt-rock groove. It’s an experiment that doesn’t pay off, but it doesn’t sink the record. Elsewhere, “Withering Souls” is a confused sounding track that can’t seem to figure out if it wants to get into an almost Southern sounding groove or flirt with more dissonant death metal. This indecisiveness makes it succeed at neither, and the guitar work is startlingly uninteresting overall. “Isolated Condemnation” tries for a crustier take on Entombed and while it’s not bad it comes across as a bit forced and lacking in Lamentation’s redline intensity. Another quibble I have is the lack of consistently great lead guitar. There are certainly highlights, but Entrapment never knocks it out of the park like they did on their previous record despite coming dangerously close on “Dominant Paradigm.”
Where Entrapment did improve in some manner is on the production front. The clipping and crackling, while charming in its own right, has been replaced with a big, beefy, and clear production that makes everything here just sound big. This benefits the groovier material in a big way, allowing it the chance to hit at maximum efficiency. It sounds more dynamic than the DR score implies, and I was a bit surprised by the reading, to be honest.
I was also surprised with how much less enthused I was about Realms of the Unseen than I was about Lamentations of the Flesh. While this is still a largely decent record, Entrapment’s 2014 Swe-death masterclass has not been surpassed in any meaningful way. The band clearly stepped out of their comfort zone a bit, which is unfortunate because that zone was chock-full of excellent riffs. Listening to both records side by side exacerbates the flaws on Through Realms Unseen, and for that reason my final score may be taken with a grain of salt. If Entrapment rebounds and carries their successes here forward, their next record will be an absolute ripper. Until that day, though, we’re left with a pretty decent record from a band which has demonstrably proven that they have the potential to be great.