No Return - The Curse Within 01Everyone who delves into a scene outside the mainstream has their own kind of Dante’s Inferno, a journey deeper into the bowels of their newfound community and lifestyle that holds such wondrous attraction. My first plunge on that trip occurred somewhere late 2003, almost half a lifetime ago. It was the release of Dance of Death by Iron Maiden, though I had been primed by popular bands such as Rammstein and System of a Down, and my father’s extensive classic rock collection before that. Soon I found myself rocking out to the unprecedented brutality of Children of Bodom and Norther, diving headfirst into the world of melodic death metal. Listening to No Return, I’m transported back to those halcyon days, despite never hearing the French band before picking The Curse Within from the promo bin.

And it would have been far from impossible for me to hear them, because they got their start all the way back in ‘89 when my heart was scarcely beating, let alone my head banging. Almost three decades of worming through death and thrash metal, undergoing the rise and fall of melodic death, No Return in 2017 reminds most of Frailtyera The Duskfall, with highly melodic songwriting and a thrashy edge in the riffs. The tracks fly by at a confident mid-to-high tempo, featuring a strong medium-pitch growl and frantic fretwork following a Helloween recipe. The second half of the album slows the train down a notch, with the Dark Tranquillity despondency of “Just Passing Through” and the shimmering Insomnium riffs on the chorus of “Memory Turns to Ashes.” The album closes on a high note with “Serpent’s Curse,” featuring a catchy undulating lead and tight drumming with the energy of an opening single, finishing with the slow melancholic wailing of the dual guitars.

Curse does have its spots. “To the Dark Side of the Sun” sports a lively Kreator-like verse but the chorus feels a little limp, and ditto for the underwhelming “Stare at my Reflection” which barely saves itself with a tasty solo. Part of the issues in both cases are the strained semi-clean vocals, which are far less convincing than the Mikael Stanne issued growls. The early tracks are a bit too similar to make them stand out, though the latter half resolves that issue, reversing the common problem of frontloading. Most significantly though, there’s not much original material to be found here. Nostalgia awakened by new music is often a sign of derivative songwriting, and Curse reads like a catalog of Gothenburgian making, without bringing something new to the equation and thus missing a personal touch. The question how big an issue this is, most will have to answer for themselves, though I reckon the more you’ve heard in this style, the less appeal it may have.

No Return - The Curse Within 02

Production-wise there is little to complain about. The sound is crisp and clear, avoiding smashing everything into a brick wall. The spotlight is on the vocals and guitars, which is no crime in and of itself, but the bass is left in the lurch as usual. Compared to the mid-naughties melodeath that’s emulated here, the production is a bit fuller and thicker without giving up too much in the dynamics. It’s pleasant to listen to and won’t give you a headache.

I had intended to say that Curse won’t blow anyone’s mind. It’s not very original nor does it throw any curveballs. But then I think back, and in my heart, I know that 15-year-old me, still unspoiled by experience or age, would have gobbled No Return right up. The infectious energy, hooks, and fluid guitar wizardry make it easy to listen and easy to like. The band still sound like a pack of enthusiastic young wolves, but with the experience of three decades in the music business backing their compositions, The Curse Within is a solid, lightly digestible piece of nostalgic melodic death. Now, where did I leave that old folder of CD-R’s…

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Mighty Music
Releases Worldwide: November 17th, 2017

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  • AngryMetalBird

    Not bad but not very original neither…. I remember what used to leave me unsatisfied with a lot oft he melodeath stuff back in the day. It’s all well executed and „heavy“ but most songs build tension without going anywhere…

    • Bryan Stroup

      Just like an episode of Heroes.

  • Huck N’ Roll

    Stop the presses, GardensTale likes an album!

    • This day will be remembered!


        (Gardens)Tale as old as time…

    • Nukenado

      He’s yet to break the 4.5 barrier.

      • Huck N’ Roll

        It is an elusive barrier. I myself have only heard of it in passing.

        • Nukenado

          You will find true Alestorm one day too, Huck!

      • GardensTale

        I wrote 75 reviews and still nothing. Maybe now that I’ve mostly stopped blind picking, 2018 will be kinder…

        Yeah, right.

        • Nukenado

          Pessimism is an important quality to have in your line of (unpaid, painful) work.

        • sir_c

          maybe in hindsight there were some growers?

    • GardensTale

      Just wait ’til next month when you get “GardensTale’s 10 Least Awful Albums of 2017”

      • mindbleach

        When you were new I wondered if AMG was just dumping all the rubbish on you. Now I’m suspicious and think you just enjoy the punishment.

        • GardensTale

          If you had read my Until The Sky Dies review carefully, I admitted to a mild streak of sadism in reviewing bad albums.

      • Huck N’ Roll

        You found 10?

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    ’89? !
    Yeain’t nuthun but a wee metal ‘ead ye are!

    • GardensTale

      Surprisingly, I’m fairly average of age among the staff, with a couple of ancient outliers.

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        Name the ancients so we may know them for what they are!

        • GardensTale

          Are you kidding? I don’t know *coughsteelcough* about you, but I value my *coughgrymmcough* life a bit too much to be calling the senior staff seniors.

          • HeavyMetalHamster

            Wait… ancients are we talking pre or post 1974?

          • Nukenado

            Huck has revealed himself to be born in 1970, and he’s the second oldest, so I’d reckon that Steel was born in the 60s.
            Mark has said that he is middle-aged in the forums and Grier seems to be of modest age as well.

            I’d say there are 3 staff membesr pre-1974 tops.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Steel Druhm was born before Time and unleashed himself upon this Earth as the unholy marriage of Blues and Psychedelia gave birth to Metal.
            His first words where: “Fools! I was already ancient!” and a cookie and 100 Metal Cred bonus points go to the first to say where that quote came from.

          • Nukenado

            Emperor, The Loss And Curse Of Reverence.
            Steely D isn’t really a BM guy though.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra
          • Nukenado


          • Iain Gleasure

            Ah but the staff “Are All Fools!
            The Mob Rules!”

          • I’m just a tad older than Huck, being birthed in 1969. I’m seasoned.

    • Ye speak true, but a moon or two it’s been since ’89, and ’twere the very same year that the sun turned black and one Master O. Muppets crawled forth from the earth. Not all that’s young is foolish, just in the case of 99.999% of people.
      But we’re Muppets, yo.

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        I meant no disrespect to either of you. I am amazed at the skills of all the contributers here on AMG to the end that you all seem ageless.
        Even an old fart like me can appreciate that.

        • None taken. I just felt like lapsing into Calla speak, say thank ya.

  • Schuldiner’s Cat

    2nd from right in the promo pic clearly was told last minute about the photo, ‘aw man….it’s laundry day, I’ll have to borrow one of my old lady’s shirts and try to butch it out’, he tried though, bless him.

    • Robert Turnbull

      Probably still feels better than the guy on the left who borrowed his younger sibling’s Velcro shoes!

  • Serjien

    Happy Thanksgiving metal heads!
    I enjoy coming to this site and finding new music, as well as reading the comment section! And for that, I am thankful!

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    nice review, GutenTag

    quick q for the readers, do any of you recall an album reviewed here a year or two or three or [insert] ago that was recieved very poorly and featured one drum pattern for the entirety of the album? artwork was some teeth i think. album was terribly awful. thanks 4 ur tiem

    • GardensTale

      Thanks, AlphaBeatsittoFishfood.

  • herrschobel

    there is something wrong with these pants ..

    • GardensTale

      Take your boner elsewhere.