I still remember the day I ventured into the world of Swedish melodic death metal. The time, the mood, the buying of so many albums. There was At the Gates‘s Slaughter of the Soul, Dark Tranquillity‘s Projector and Damage Done, In Flames‘ Jester Race and Clayman, The Haunted‘s debut and Made Me Do It, and Amon Amarth‘s Fate of Norns. All purchased and consumed within weeks of each other. I was fucking hooked—ignoring reason (and my food budget) to please my insatiable craving for everything this genre had to offer. From raspy, rumbling barks to crushing, neck-snapping riffs to thick, moody atmospheres, these records had my fists pumping and my mind spiraling down the darkest chasms of my subconscious. This year finds one of the greats of that original Swedish melodic death metal era making a return, even if their first full-length never saw the light of day until 2007. Releasing their debut at a time when many of the genre’s forefathers were on the up-and-up may suggest that Evocation aren’t even one of the “greats” or even one of the “founding fathers” of the genre. But, in order to avoid yet another “Big Four” in metal, let’s get on with Evocation‘s newest record, The Shadow Archetype.
Though Tales from the Tomb hit the shelves in the early ’00s, Evocation has actually been a thing since 1991 (the band broke up in 1993 and reformed in 2005). When that little record finally did drop, everyone found it riddled with Entombed, Grave, and Unleashed deathisms; rather than the melodic Evocation we know today. It wasn’t until 2008’s Dead Calm Chaos that the band found it’s stride, then they hit it hard with 2010’s Apocalyptic. After imitating Amon Amarth a bit too much on 2012’s Illusions of Grandeur, the band took five years to refocus and restructure. The result was Per M. Jensen on the kit and the band’s desire to return to the sound that made Dead Calm Chaos and Apocalyptic so great. The Shadow Archetype is here to settle a score and prove, once and for all, the hand the band has lent in keeping the genre alive.
“Into Ruins” gets The Shadow Archetype going in classic The Haunted fashion. After its gentle The Dead Eye build, follow-up track “Condemned to the Grave” blows sharp, red-hot shrapnel across a city-block of innocent bystanders. It’s got a catchy chorus, dive-bombing Witchery riffs, and Tjompe’s classic barks. But “Survival of the Sickest” utilizes its instrumental introduction with greater effect. “Blind Obedience” is a superb album interlude, filled with emotional sound-clips and layers of beautiful acoustic guitars. But then “Survival of the Sickest” follows it up with an attitude taken straight from the moodiest numbers on With Oden on Our Side. Though this track is heavy Amon Amarth, it works and adds a great vibe to the back-half of the album.
The other Amon Amarth-like tracks on the album are “Children of Stone,” “The Coroner,” and closer “Dark Day Sunrise.” But these tracks focus on that band’s ability to use simple guitar leads as the foundation, the walls, and the roofing. On the surface, these tracks are nothing more than a catchy chorus and sweeping, melodic guitar leads. But, when you slap on some dramatic builds and snare-snapping hits from Jensen, and you have some of the most memorable tracks on the album. The closer, in particular, is my favorite of them all. It has everything I could ever want from this album and it closes it perfectly.
Unfortunately, numbers like “Condemned to the Grave,” “Sulphur and Blood,” and the title track are so simple they disappear under the weight of the stronger tracks. Which is a bummer for “Condemned,” considering it’s the track that gets things started. Then there’s “Imperium Fall,” which has the opposite problem. It stands out like a sore, Entombed thumb. Don’t get me wrong, it rules, but it’s odd when compared to the rest of the album. The other issue with The Shadow Archetype (and one that I feel comes as no surprise) is the ear-fatiguing compression. Every track, but the DR11 “Blind Obedience,” is skull pounding. But, if you know the band, love their music, and need more of it in your life, these will be easy negatives to overcome.