One of the coolest things about writing for Angry Metal Guy is the chance of discovering a great new band. Sure, getting new music from your favorite bands earlier than everyone else is an awesome thing in and of itself, but nothing beats getting blindsided by an up-and-coming group of youngin’s chomping at the bit to be seen and heard. Denmark’s Wrath of Belial are those chompin’ youngin’s. With little to go by, except a very sparse Facebook page and a short bio describing their sound as thrash and death metal “that move(s) from frantic riffs to grandiose melodic passages and neck-breaking grooves,” I approached their debut, Bloodstained Rebellion, with equal parts curiosity and trepidation. The last time I bought into a “melodic death metal” album from a band I knew little about, it left me more than a little cold.
Thankfully, my worries went unfounded, as it’s melodic, it’s death metal, and this fucker’s got teeth to bare. Opener “Traitors” blasts forth with all the fury of early The Black Dahlia Murder, especially in the drumming of Jacob “Tormentor” Jørgensen. Kasper Hornstrup’s acidic mid-range screams and deep growls add to this vibe, sounding like Trevor Strnad but with more restraint. But what elevates this song above that influence lies with the incredible fretwork of guitarists Jonas Thomsen and Henrik Isaksen, whose chorus riffs remind me of Soilwork‘s The Chainheart Machine. Tasteful melodies, soaring leads, and memorable hooks ensure that the song remains embedded into your skull long after it ends. In fact, it took a long time for me to listen to the rest of the album because “Traitors” straight-up owned my headphones for a solid week.
Once I managed to come to grips that Bloodstained Rebellion contains ten more songs, I was relieved to find that many of them matched the opener’s intensity and talent, and in some parts exceeded it. “Set Sails for the End of the World,” possesses one helluva sick, infectious groove. “Battleborn” soars with one of the most effective leads I’ve heard all year, all while retaining its savage riffing and groove. The off-kilter drumming in “Aftermath of a Tyrant” catches your ear and drags you around by it for the song’s duration. Even this early on, Wrath of Belial showcase a knack for memorable songs.
That’s not to say that they’re all flawless, however. “Mirror Fiend” and “Reborn Through Your Demise,” while both great songs suffer from outstaying their welcome. Likewise, closer “Next Chapter of Enslavement,” while a good song, doesn’t hit the same elevated (and brutal) heights that precede it. Also, due to the loudness of the recording, Anders Stegmann’s bass remains firmly in the back seat, not once poking its head out to make itself known. Finally, it sometimes feels like Wrath of Belial are a little too close to their inspirations. But if you’re going to emulate your heroes, I can think of far worse bands to pull from.
Once again, I go into an album with little-to-no expectations, and I walk away with something new to enjoy and throw down to. I felt a little let down by Mors Principium Est‘s newest, but Bloodstained Rebellion soothed that disappointment considerably. I can’t wait to hear more from Wrath of Belial, as their debut is absolutely vicious and worth your while.