AMG Unsigned Band Rodeö: Suodeth – Aja

Back in the primordial days of this here blog, we attempted something called “AMG’s Unsigned Band Rodeö.” The basic idea was to select a bunch of unsigned bands and give them the collective review treatment to find the most worthy buried gems. It was our humble effort to remind folks that the metal underground is still an important part of the world of metal.

Greetings bronco busters! The Rodeö is back in town despite endless protests by unsigned band activists and we have several new acts to run through the critical meat grinder. First up this week is British blackened melodeath act, Suodeth. With 3 full-lengths to their name, the band still remains unsigned, but that didn’t stop them from dropping new EP Aja on the filthy unwashed masses1. If you want to learn more about the band, you can do so at their Bandcamp and Facebook pages. And now…lights, camera, revolution, Rodeö!

Steel Druhm: Britain’s Suodeth traffic in old school blackened melodeath with symphonics, not far removed from acts like Kalmah and Norther. On their new EP, Aja, they waste no time trying to punch your face in with blastbeats, surging trems and thrashy chords. Cuts like opener “Asulos” are high-octane speed assaults with roaring death metal vocals and frantic riff-work that skews between black and melodeth tropes in familiar ways. The band is tight and proficient and tracks like “Genus” and “Terra” are easy to appreciate for their terminal velocity and high-level guitar-work. That said, it’s when the title track arrives with a grinding mid-pace that my attention was fully captured. It’s like a more melodic version of Kataklysm’s immortal “The Road to Devastation,” and it works for me. Suodeth attempt to incorporate slightly proggy touches at times, which gets them into trouble on “Era” where they introduce clean female vocals that aren’t especially good. This cut also grinds the album’s critical momentum to a screeching halt, and such momentum is crucial to enjoying the EP fully. There’s some real talent here no doubt, but some of this material feels under-baked while other moments feel extremely generic. Not bad really, but it’s not something I’ll be returning to. 2.0/5.0

El Cuervo: The British Midlands are an illustrious location from which to produce heavy metal. Though the region itself is otherwise somewhat nondescript (being the elitist, Southern, bastard that I am), it’s home to the genre itself and I therefore commence any listen to such music with a certain degree of respect. Aja by Suodeth falls somewhere between an EP and an LP at 27 minutes and packs its sound with vaguely melodic, vaguely progressive, vaguely technical and vaguely symphonic blackened death metal. It’s an accomplished production in that it blends these elements in a way that exhibits them all, and the musicianship is beyond reproach. However, I find the song-writing crowded; perhaps rushed is the word. The trilling blackened passages, chugging deathier riffs, quieter interludes and layering builds are a lot to cram into tracks which average 4 and a half minutes so I was left feeling that slower, clearer writing would benefit the group. Aja is reasonably punchy as a mini-album, but while there are weapons in the Suodeth arsenal which may serve them well in future, it’s not a release which comes with an easy recommendation from this pleb. 2.5/5.0.

GardensTale: Oh Muppet. You silly bugger, sending an EP in for the Rodeö. But I will forgive you, because Aja by Suodeth is really a solid piece of melodic death 5 out of 6 times. The melodic sensibilities and tasteful application of keyboards reminds me of the Throne of Chaos debut, Menace and Prayer, which was an under-appreciated gem of its era, that era being the mid-00’s. The way the serrated vocals dance around the great guitar work, the tight assault of the drumming, and the sheer fucking energy all make this a piece very easy to listen to and to appreciate on both a visceral and intellectual level. Sure, it’s not the most original, as the aforementioned era of melodic death pulses in its every beat, and the Children of Bodom content is more than just a whiff. But the execution is too good to let that weigh the album down too much. The only stumble is “Era,” where the female vocals evoke mostly cringe and the energy level drops harder than the number of public events taking place this summer. Take that track off and you have an excellent throwback EP. With it, it merely stops at ‘good.’ 3.0/5.0.

Roquentin: The initial impact of Aja is one of sickly nostalgia. While flashy keyboards emulate trumpets and harpsichords, swirling tremolos, nervy blast beats, and hyper-melodic guitar leads bubble up from behind them. I’m suddenly back in high school, listening to Children of Bodom’s Hatebreeder and Kalmah’s They Will Return. Yet, despite being an uncomfortable step too close to derivative homage, the opening “Asulos” is an enjoyable cut. But as the group vary their approach over the remainder of the brief album, things fall apart. Each subsequent cut is insipid in comparison. Trying to find a fitting sonic clothing, the attempted brutality and Fleshgod Apocalypse worship of “Genus” becomes the brooding “Aja,” only to return to the punk aggression of “Resum.” And as the final notes of the d-beat romp “Terra” trail off, Aja leaves a watery taste behind. An impression of a competently performed songbook of melodic death and black metal past, without much of its own to say or even a particularly interesting way of saying it. 2.0/5.0

Sentynel: Aja is pretty cool, in a Dimmu Borgir meets Children of Bodom sort of way. Suodeth probably aren’t anything you haven’t heard before, but their symphonic, blackened melodeath is solid and generally done well. The symphonics are suitably sweeping and dramatic, the riffs are catchy, the vocals angry. The opening couple of tracks hid hard and immediately, and “Genus” features some neat baroque-flavored guitar melodies. The title track is the obvious highlight, with slower doomier riffs trading off with synths and acoustic instruments. Unfortunately, there’s a few wobbles which hold them back. The clean female vocals on “Era” I like a lot more in theory than I do in execution. Some of the synth choices stray a bit too far into Casio territory. And the songwriting can feel a little unbalanced, sometimes jumping between moods too rapidly, other times overstaying its welcome. Ultimately this isn’t quite a recommendation, but I do enjoy a lot of the music here and with a bit more polish, and perhaps a little more bravery in branching out from their influences, Suodeth could be really good. 2.5/5.0

Master of Muppets: I don’t know how they did it, much less why, but Suodeth have created Master of Muppets’ AotY – for 2006. Aja is exactly what the wee baby Mupplet wanted from the world at the time. Fierce yet articulate shrieks of ‘Fuck you!’? Check. All the angry riffage of Children of Bodom, Dimmu Borgir and Hypocrisy, hold the noodles? Check. A guest female clean performance so I can brag to my friends2 about how goddamn artistic ‘my’ music is compared to theirs? Well, two out of three ain’t bad – except these guys have it all and Teenage Mutant Muppet Master fucking loves it. Though Suodeth may have a slight propensity towards overextending any given riff, make no mistake: the riffs bare repeating. I’m not saying it’s necessarily as good as the real thing, but Aja seeks to relive the rifftastic glory days of the aforementioned legends and does a fine job at it. Suodeth could stand to inject a little more life of their own into this mix – you can straight up sing the chorus of Children of Bodom’s “Angels Don’t Kill” during certain passages on “Aja” – but ultimately what we have here is an enjoyable and largely well executed reminder of what metal was like before it was all atmoblack. 3.0/5.0

Holdeneye: Let’s begin with a quick psychological exercise. I want you to imagine that Machine Head were to become a symphonic melodic death metal band. Take a moment, there’s no rush. Whenever you’re ready, I want you to tell me what emotions this exercise generated within you. Sadness or madness you say? Remember, I’m not a licensed therapist, but these are not the emotions you’re looking for. Your answer should be curiosity, nay, joy! Suodeth is a band that deals in simple but devastating grooves backed by orchestral keys, and vocalist Jonathon Salisbury is a dead ringer for Robb Flynn. The whole thing has a Gothenburg meets Dimmu Borgir with a side of Symphony X vibe. Neo-classical motifs weave in and out of the songs, but there’s a simplicity and catchiness to the whole affair with the title track even sounding like a Sabaton marching anthem. I really like what Suodeth is doing here, and Aja would be an easy 3.5 if it wasn’t for “Era,” a number that is utterly ruined by obnoxiously terrible female clean vocals. 3.0/5.0

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Muppet told us this was a full-length and by the time we assigned teams it was too late to prevent a savage wolf pack review. Muppet is currently shackled to the Stone of Shamicorn.
  2. Did I use that word properly?
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