Metal fans collect sub-genres like Barbie dolls: in a huge assortment of flavors, often mildly disturbing, and most pleasant when pulled apart and recombined. It’s almost strange when a band plays a sub-genre straight and usually we cover up our embarrassment by transforming “death metal” into something like “old school Swedish death metal.” Luckily, I have no such problems, because Krepitus play one of the more prevalent genre combos: death thrash. The spitfire jackknife riffing and snarling of thrash is a natural fit for the plowing explosions of death metal, but the question is whether Krepitus married the material or doomed it to divorce.
Well, not to worry. Eyes of the Soulless is a tasty offering, a thick slab of aggression spiced up with great melodic licks and excellent drumwork. The band is at their best when they play it fast, hard and tight. Opener “The Decree of Theodoseus” delivers in spades, layering a riff that ricochets left to right on a set of precise, rolling drums and wrapping the whole with a hyper-aggressive roar that goes a long way to securing a passionate hatred to peace and love. The album is not just a blast-fest, though, as the dual guitar attacks wind their way through a few more mid-paced tracks, notably closer “My Desdemona” which mixes up squealing guitars, tremolo riffing and stop-start pounding for an effective melodic burst.
It’s the slower tracks where one of my quibbles with Krepitus becomes evident. Teran Wyer is a great guitar player, and his no-holds-barred vocal delivery works a spell when the songs pull out all stops, but it shows to be a bit one-note during the more melodic tracks as he belts at full blast without much regard for context. The passion and fury are perfect and clear but while the music has plenty of variety he cannot follow in its wake. His range is rather stunted too, so overall it does stand out as the weak link of the band. Aside from the vocals, though, there’s not much to complain about. Even though some songs run a tad on the long side, mostly noticeable “Exile,” it’s never to a hindering extent.
The only sticky point remaining is the production, which is a real two-edged sword. Despite the above average DR score, the instruments feel a tad squeezed together in the mix. For a change, this compressed style of mastering actually feels like it’s “compact for impact” as many metal outfits strive for. The thunderstorm drummed up across the disc certainly has a good deal of weight to it, and this can likely be chalked up to the dynamic range. However, it costs the band’s more melodic sensibilities some heft. Especially in the lower registers, the guitars can find themselves lost in the rumble and with fretwork like this, that is just a darn shame. As Eyes is a debut I can overlook this somewhat though, and future iterations may improve the sound further to accommodate both sides of the scales.
The production choices are worlds away from a deal-breaker though. Krepitus have forged a successful two-pronged assault of pummeling aggression and harmonic melodies, striking a great balance and executing it with neck-breaking spirit. It won’t change anyone’s life, but it doesn’t aim to. It’s not the type of debut that shoots for the moon, wants to land among the stars, and winds up in the cold uncaring void of space. Rather, it establishes the young band as a workhorse, focusing on robust song-craft to construct a solid chunk of tightly written death thrash. Get in on this.