Whenever a beloved band implodes and goes into a ten-year hiatus, you’re more than justified in viewing a comeback with a jaundiced eye. After all, times change, people change, that “special something” a band had slowly fades away from lack of use. Basically, everything falls apart and the center cannot hold. Oh and hey, Tad Morose, the once great Swedish heavy metal act is back after a ten-year lay off. What a coincidence! In their prime in the 90’s and early 2000s, the Morose Ones released a series of utterly killer, addicting slabs of traditional metal with power and prog influences. They had one of my favorite singers in Urban Breed and a knack for consistently writing wickedly hooky tunes. Undead and Matters of the Dark are still two of my favorite albums ever and A Mended Rhyme is right there too. After 2003s Modus Vivendi, Breed split and the band shut down operations. While I certainly hoped for a reunion, time passed, Breed went on to bands like Bloodbound and Pyramaze and hope slowly died.
When I heard two original members were bringing the band back with Ronny Hemlin (Steel Attack) on vocals, something had my stomach feeling uneasy. Well, the gut of Steel Druhm was wise indeed, and though there are scattered decent moments, Revenant sounds almost nothing like Tad Morose and most of the album is a big fat muddle of uninspired, generic, quasi-power metal. The charm of old is gone and the special something the band once had is now kaput. This makes me feel a tad…pissed off!
The album opens with “Beneath a Veil of Crying Souls,” which is the only song here that actually sounds like the Tad Morose of old. It’s a decent tune with a fairly memorable chorus and it holds true to the band’s legacy, though Hemlin’s vocals irritate me and sound a bit forced. “Follow” is better and the album high point, but instead of sounding like the band I love, it sounds like old Symphorce in structure and how the chorus pops. From there, things descend into a morass of dull, uninteresting tunes like “Babylon, ” Within A Dream” and “Ares” which are all interchangeably empty and flat. Most grind along in a mid-tempo fog without anything interesting or exciting aside from some respectable solos. The riffing is generally tired and monotonous and Hemlin’s one-trick-pony delivery is annoying and does nothing to hold my interest.
Only “Absence of Light” and “Spirit World” rise above the malaise, with the former sounding like tolerable mix of Steel Attack and Iced Earth, and the latter adopting a dark, quasi-ballad style that allows Hemlin to stretch out his pipes a bit more. The remainder of the album is a sad lot and it was a real slog to sit through it the multiples times required to give the album a fair shake. At 52 minutes, this doesn’t just feel long, it feels interminable!
With only Christer Andersson (guitar) and Peter Moren (drums) returning from the salad days, things were bound to sound a bit different, but I can’t over-emphasize how little this sounds like the band I once knew. The newfound, grinding, chugging style is painfully repetitious and while they manage to channel some of the darkness of old, it’s utterly without impact because the songs are so uninteresting. Andersson and Kenneth Jonsson are able guitarists, but most of the riffs are just simple chuggers with no life or energy to them. Putting the cap on the disaster bottle, Hemlin turns in the worst performance of his career. I liked him just fine on the Steel Attack albums and the guy has a decent enough voice, but here he sounds stuck in low gear from beginning to end and his singing feels like that of a man disinterested in his job. When teamed with the tepid riffs, his vocals became a proxy for how I felt listening to this on repeat, which was like a big, cranky baby with a terminally wet diaper (WAAAAH!!!!). To say Urban Breed is sorely missed is the understatement of the year, but even he couldn’t make these songs work.
The album title was likely meant to be ironic, but it’s shockingly accurate. Though back from the dead, they’re a mere husk of their former selves. If they had stayed dead, I’d be left with fond memories and some killer albums. Instead, we get this ill-fated comeback and Revenant now sits in my consciousness like Highlander II – always trying to taint the legacy of the stellar product that preceded it. That really chafes my granola! Stick with the old stuff and forget this ever happened.