For those new to Izegrim, it only takes a few descriptive words to describe these Dutch metallers. What if I described the vocalist as a blonde woman with raspy, deathy vox? What if I categorized their sound as melodeath with thrashy breakdowns? What if I described their mission as causing inner-ear damage and venue deconstruction? Izegrim may not be a spot-on imitator of Arch Enemy, but the similarities are enough that I bet the band wishes it could enforce a fee on every reviewer that makes the comparison.
Differences do exist between Izegrim and Arch Enemy, of course. For instance, original vocalist Krisz (on debut and sophomore releases, Guidelines for Genocide and Tribute to Totalitarianism) uses a vocal style that has more similarities to Opera IX-era Cadaveria than Angela Gossow; a fitting combination to the overly melodic songwriting of the debut. But when Tribute to Totalitarianism bassist/backing-vocalist Marloes Voskuil took over lead vocal duties permanently, the “A”-word comparisons really came to a head. Though 2011’s Code of Consequences and 2013’s Congress of the Insane are solid platters of crushing Arch Enemy-meets-Bolt Thrower melodic death metal, the band has yet to drop anything that stands the test of time. And sadly, 2016’s The Ferryman’s End hasn’t ended this streak.
The Ferryman’s End is a concept album about a death-row inmate awaiting execution. As described by the band, each song drags you deeper into the criminal’s psychotic mind before the murderer is finally executed in the album’s closer. While there are tracks that do, indeed, drag you deeper into the concept, for the most part, the closer pulls you as far into the theme of the album as the opener. This is not a compliment. The album has some bruisers and Voskuil actually does a good job of mixing up her vocal style (which isn’t apparent until the second-half of the album), but the album tends to stick to the same approach for every song, lacking the memorable, melodic moments of previous releases. Izegrim mentioned their desire for better production and catchier tunes, but the production is seriously brick-walled and the one-dimensionality of the album zaps the life out of it.
However, there are some high points in the form of “Reclaim My Identity,” “Insanity Is Freedom,” and closer “The Ferryman’s End.” The first comes to a near-stop midway, transitioning to melodic passages filled with clean, desperate acapella from Voskuil. The song then builds back up into riffs even more vengeful than before. It isn’t amazing but it stands out against the other mediocre numbers. “The Ferryman’s End” also uses those signature Izegrim melodic elements that make previous releases worth the dabble, while the crushing simplicity of “Insanity Is Freedom” encourages foot-tapping and mid-paced head-bobbing from beginning to end.
The rest of the album is about as typical as it gets for the style. The decision to focus on hard-and-fast songwriting actually makes the record less memorable than previous outings. Though Izegrim have rarely grabbed my attention for long, their melodic output stuck with me longer than their pit-pleasing headbangers. Opener “White Walls” is all about the catchy chorus, but it is painfully weak and its repetitiveness gets annoying. Like the closer, “The Evil Within” introduces some melody into mix but the result is a midsection clean-guitar/spoken-word interlude that parts the heaviness for such a short amount of time that I am at a loss trying to figure out why the band would even do it. The band did achieve “memorability” on The Ferryman’s End, but not in a positive way.
To top it off, the album is as compressed as a raisin and clips louder than a one-ton, stainless-steel clothesline clip. With all that loudness, the “pops” feel flatter than anything they’ve ever recorded—which is a shame considering the mix is well-balanced and the performances are good. And though the songwriting doesn’t stand out, Voskuil and drummer Ivo Maarhuis’ performances do. Voskuil lacks vocal diversity in previous releases but does a decent job mixing it up on The Ferryman’s End, while Maarhuis tears into his kit like a wolverine on rabies. I was really hoping for something new and exciting here, but for all their faults, I think Code and Congress are better than this one.1
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3