After years of meandering through the comments section as your friendly neighborhood bone-saw (and before as another beloved reader), I’ve had the pleasure of sparing with many of you, upsetting the tight-ass AMG HR department, and making fun of Diabolus for his bad taste in music. Somewhere in the last couple years, one of you recommended Root to me and forever changed my life. But, I can’t, for the life of me, remember which one of you did. You know who you are and you better speak up, because, thanks to you, I’ve been looking forward to the new Root release all year. Eleven fucking months and now it’s here. But, for how much I have wanted it, I have also been dreading it. Will it be a continuation of the band’s recent sub-par material or will Root rediscover their… Roots?
Along with their fellow countrymen Master’s Hammer, Root have never released a bad album. Even after tweeking their style and losing key members over the years. Right out of the gates, Root knocked out three outstanding albums in just as many years—’90, ’91, and ’92. Then an unsurprising shift came with 1996’s Kärgeräs. This slower and more-melodic concept album marked a new era for the band, contributing to the character of albums like The Book and Madness of the Graves. And then long-time guitarist Petr “Blackie” Hošek left the band, leaving fans hanging on the fringes of Madness of the Graves in hopes the band would continue to deliver the goods in his absence. Sadly, Daemon Viam Invenient and Heritage of Satan didn’t deliver anything close to the Blackie days. And now we have Kärgeräs – Return from Oblivion; an album whose title hints at a band determined to correct the shortcomings of its two previous releases.
The best part about Return, and other great Root albums, is it doesn’t feel forced. The songwriting and vocal performance are as honest here as they were on the album’s prequel. The biggest difference between the two records being that Return from Oblivion has a little more diversity and umph. “Osculum Infame” and closer “Do You Think is it the End?” (their song title, not mine) have some serious doomy groove. “Osculum Infame” stomps along with crushing riffs, while Big Boss unleashes his signature bombastic cleans. “Do You Think is it the End” keeps the aggressive chugginess of “Osculum Infame,” while intensifying it with marching Rotting Christ riffs and chorus. “Moment of Fright” follows a similar formula to the closer, but hardens it with Volcano-era Satyricon and delivers a vocal-line surprise for longtime fans of Hell Symphony.
The best tracks on the album have to be the back-to-back “The Book of Death” and “Black Iris.” The former is a head-nodding number that’ll plant its roots deep into you. The vocals fit the melodics of the songwriting like a glove, making for a rounded, pleasurable listen. “Black Iris,” however, has the grooviest riff on the album. It’s addictive as hell and rigs the midsection of the album for explosion. Boss is menacing-as-hell and those chugging guitars support his every rasp and croak.
In the world of Root, every high needs a low and Return from Oblivion is no different. “Moment of Hope” offsets “Moment of Fright” in the most Bathory way possible. It has acoustic guitars, a folksy feel, and unforgiving lyrics and vocals. It’s about as raw and real as Root can get. But, that’s not the end of it. It’s followed up by “The Key to the Empty Room:” a song that combines elements from Tom Waits, Rotting Christ, and Type O Negative. The track has a post-metal feel (much like “New Empire”) and a vocal delivery that puts the Peter Steele in Big Boss. The result is something rather unique and hypnotic, especially when those strings appear.
Return may not come close to Hell Symphony or The Temple in the Underworld (or even Kärgeräs, for that matter), but it’s the Root that has been missing since Madness of the Graves. Though good, Return‘s songwriting is pretty typical for the band and never quite reaches the impressive atmospheres of their classic albums. But, what makes the record so enjoyable is its diversity. It’s as unpredictable as any great Root record and has everything from heavy to moody. Unfortunately, without consistently killer songwriting from song-to-song, the album feels a bit disjointed. Nevertheless, Return has atmosphere, it has “feels,” and it even has Bog Boss’ face on the cover; (almost) everything I love about Root.