Undrask - Battle Through TimeWith a basic internet connection offering an up-to-the-minute cornucopia of quality metal releases, snap judgments have become an unfortunate way of life. On my first listen, Undrask came off as middling melodeath in the vain of acts emulating Clayman—In Flames and peak Children of Bodom. Packaged in a blue-and-orange visage that could leave Michael Bay weak in the knees, debut Battle Through Time initially left me stifling a yawn. Sorry, better luck next time. NEXT!

…Raise your hand if you’ve done that before. I’m more than guilty of this behavior and if not for this gig, I would have whiffed on Undrask altogether1. Instead, Undrask earned my respect with an incredibly fun debut that accomplished the enviable task of improving with every spin.

The quintet from North Carolina recognized their strength in producing fantastic melodies and rightly constructed an album capable of showcasing that talent. Though the production never squeaks as boldly or cleanly as compatriots like Words of Farewell or Sunless Rise, BTT intentionally leans on infectious leads meant to make hitting the skip button impossible. On-the-face proceedings often recall Orpheus Omega sans keyboard, but with more focus on letting their riffs do the talking. The dual axework sources everywhere from classic heavy metal to power to melodeath, meaty keyboard-y, and everywhere in between. Eric Collier’s lead work, while utterly enjoyable alone, would feel hollow without the essential rhythms and twin leads of Darryl Dewitt. Bridges pillared atop progressive influences regularly lead the way to incredible Symphony X solos that surpass my standard expectations for the genre. Even now, I wonder where my head was when I shrugged at the Stickum-coated opener “No Graves for the Dead.”

The harried “Champion of the Dawn” reveals a darker side of Undrask, peppering the track’s underbelly with rhythmic gallops and tom-thumping. This shift ushers in a top-tier midsection that unlocks the core of BTT. Deeper shading and heavy rhythm reliance in Undrask’s overall sound on “Black Ocean” injects another layer of complexity to its previously straightforward offerings. Even if the song structure does not heavily deviate from its chorus-centrality, Undrask do well to retain their memorability. The Blind Guardian acoustics of interlude “Embers and Omens” fulfill their promise as they build into anthemic standout “Longhammer.” A song about a mystical mind-controlling warhammer may as well feature Angus McFife XIII, for how silly it sounds, yet I’ll be damned if Undrask didn’t pour their souls into this one (directly from their collector’s edition Amon Amarth alehorns). Adding to the mead hall feel, Steve Wynn tips his vocal scale toward Johan Hegg, rather than his usual scaled-back Ville Viljanen (Mors Principium Est). As the curtains pull on the fantastic intro to follow-up “Primal Revelation,” Undrask have earned their return to the straightforward direction they embarked on at the start of BTT.

Undrask 2017

At no point do Undrask feel as if they are going through the motions. Despite a lack of superstar pop hooks like “Karma Favors the Weak,” every cut finds a way to justify its existence. As such, flaws are few and far between. The album lacks structural variance, not the end of the world with melodies like these. But as the close of “No Graves for the Dead” and the titular closer suggest, working deviations around a central motif a la Wilderun would add another layer of intricacy. I also intended to use this space to bitch about the 40 Minute Rule™2, as the album is over only by the length of closer “Battle Through Time.”  The track tends to drag, while penultimate “Final Right” nails the should-be finale to BTT. But hell, a simple track order shuffle rectifies the issue and “Battle Through Time” offers some of the structural variety I requested. I would simply be cherry-picking negatives if I said this hindered my enjoyment in any meaningful way.

Truth be told, this album started as a surefire 2.5. But I cannot remember a record grabbing me by the collar and shouting “No, you listen to me” with such force. Undrask squeeze everything I want into a modern melodeath offering. From head-bopping rhythms and inescapable melodies to air-guitar-wherever-you-are solos, Battle Through Time effortlessly reminds me of why I love the genre. Don’t judge this one by its cover.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: undrask.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/undrask
Releases Worldwide: January 27th, 2017


Show 2 footnotes

  1. Pobody’s nerfect.
  2. Because who ever tires of hearing about that?
  • Kronos

    I’m angry that I like this.

    • Seconded.

    • mindbleach

      I like this and I’m totally content with it.

    • manimal

      I’m relieved that I don’t.

    • [not a Dr]

      Even if the song doesn’t meet your br00tality standards, Mr. Longhammer’s attitude certainly must.

    • Maximos662

      Agreed. But…. this is what In Flames would sound like if they still had balls.

    • WIRED_Metal

      so many mixed emotions about this track…

    • Kronos Sr.

      I’m not angry I like this!

  • I think I partied with that Viking in college.

    • Excentric_13073

      Surprising absolutely no-one.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Hell, he sang at my wedding.

  • metalcasket

    That embedded track is killer and I fucking love a band that doesn’t take itself seriously. I honestly don’t even remember the last time I listened to melodeath and couldn’t pre-order the album any quicker. Great stuff.

    • BernBern17

      It’s so good watching the video seeing a band just enjoying making music with their mates

    • Iain Gleasure

      So if you like non-serious bands, you love Alestorm, yes?

      • metalcasket

        Loved Alestorm since they were known as Battleheart. ;)

        Also, listening to BTT for the first time in its entirety. This album is just delicious.

  • brutal_sushi

    As fat dude lead singer, I approve of more fat dude lead singers! Also that track was pretty damn tasty.

    • BernBern17

      I reckon he nails it as well. Knows his range and sticks to it.

  • Joshua Walker

    How could you not like beautiful melodic death metal that ends with beer uniting vikings in friendship?

  • GardensTale

    Great review. I love the descriptions of your prejudice being beaten into a pulp! I’ll be trying this one out toute suite!

    • André Snyde Lopes

      It’s “tout de suite”, Garden-dude.

  • Alexandre Barata

    Great sound! Only the vocals are a bit crappy, without any power behind them, but hey, the riffs surely make up for that!

    • Tofu muncher

      mayhap that Belieber-like hairdo that did it.

  • Song sounds rad, video is fucking deadly, promo photo looks like N.W.A.

  • sir_c

    This.. at a beer-laden party together with lotsa chicken wings and moar beer… golden!

  • naoto

    Lasted one minute and half.

    • Ugo Poifol

      I’m with you on this one. Feels generic and bland, I don’t get the hype.

    • Fazy

      That’s rather unfortunate, try to breathe more slowly to relieve the pressure. What does it have to do with Undrask though?

  • Mark Wagner

    Viking playing beer pong . ‘Nough said.

  • Westpaceagle

    Omg should totally not like this as much as I do. That video is great though, how can you not like those guys? I have been to that party (minus the warriors)

    First guilty pleasure of 2017. Undrask, FTW!

  • Levly

    The track is fun without being amazing, but your excellent review, warm recommendation and the very funny video mean I’ll definitively be giving this record a few spins before deciding if it’s a keeper.

  • AgonMcDuck

    Admittedly I’m not sure if the embedded track did it for me, but because of the review I ran off to check and found “Conscripted.” Sounds like a Thousand Leaves (some Japanese neoclassical melodeath band that I believe also does some Touhou fan songs/covers) song. That one alone makes me really dig.

    Another January release for me to get excited over while I spin Hegaiamas for the nth time where lord knows the value of n. :D

    • AgonMcDuck

      Two months on, it’s one of my favorite records of 2017. It absolutely rips. Whenever I’m in the mood for a quick melodeath fix I find myself loading this one together with my older In Flames/Arch Enemy/Arsis/Carcass records. This is really good. Aww yeah.

  • gerard espinosa

    The video is “absobeerly” brilliant…

  • Not a fan of melo-death at all. I think pretty much all of it is a yawn-fest, but this is really good. I’ll take this over In Flames or Children of Bodom any day, based on what I’ve what I’ve heard of the album (which is admittedly very little). It’s amazing the stuff that gets self released these days. Even the video is better than most and I like the cover art.

    • BernBern17

      I thought the cover art was cool as well, very sci-fi.

  • BernBern17

    Many beers shall be drunk to this

  • h_f_m

    I also have to say Red Hook Longhammer IPA is pretty good if you’re looking for a more “drinkable” IPA. I’d give that a 4/5 as well. Far from my favorite but when bringing an IPA to mixed company you can’t go wrong with it.

  • h_f_m

    The video totally reminds me of Red Fang.