Back in the primordial days of this here blog, we attempted something called “AMG’s Unsigned Band Rodeo.” 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.
After several years of self-righteous elitism where we largely overlooked unsigned acts, it’s high time we make amends. And so we’re bringing AMGs Unsigned Band Rodeo back from the dustbins of history with a fresh paint job and a metric assload of reviewers! Whenever we fucking feel like it, we will pluck a band from metallic obscurity, review the holy Bejesus out of them and leave them to the mercy of you, the fickle masses. At year’s end we will crown the best in show and shower them with accolades, cheap beer and day old sushi. Now that you know the score, welcome to the Rodeo, mofos!
Hello, Rodeo enthusiasts! Welcome to May’s second Rodeo. It’s a special one, to be sure. Today we feature Existence Exiled, the debut album from mysterious German melodic death metallers From Ashes Reborn. These cats play what they have dubbed “Scandinavian styled melodic death metal” and that’s about all we know about them. Their Facebook and Bandcamp pages have zero information about them. They have no pictures, no band listing, and the only information we have is that they were founded in 2017 and that Existence Exiled was recorded in cooperation with Markus Stock (Empyrium, The Vision Bleak). They tell us that their trademarks are “mighty growls […] embedded in a mixture of Heavy Riffs [sic] and blast beat attacks constantly accompanied by melodic hooks and harmonic lead guitars.” Here to weigh in on whether or not From Ashes Reborn can claim these to be their trademarks, or whether certain Scandinavian melodic death metal bands should be calling their lawyers is Team Corpsepaint by Numbers. Let’s get rodeo-ing!
AMG – From the logo by The Lord of Logos to the obligatory album introduction, Existence Exiled is a record that did exactly what I expected of it. From Ashes Reborn’s sound is a combination of Insomnium and Amon Amarth—which, now that I think about it, sounds an awful lot like Omnium Gatherum. These guys switch deftly between Swedish death riffs (“Follow the Rising,” “Homicidal Rampage”) and sadboy melodeath (“The Essence of Emptiness,” “The Splendid Path”) and the combination works. One of my ongoing complaints about the “Fakeus Latinus Melodeathium” bands is that they tend toward “mellow,” while having lost touch with the “death” that makes up their subgenre title. These guys are at their very best when they break into a blasty track like “Existence Exiled,” loaded for bear with trem-picked guitar harmonies that remind of early Taake or The Black Dahlia Murder. These guys have some chops, and a lead guitarist who can shred (he’s way too high in the mix, though). Still, with a brickwalled master, drum production from 2004, and songs that make me want to go listen to Winter’s Gate or Over Bjørgvin graater himmerik, I can’t imagine I’ll be back around to Existence Exiled. Rehashing the early aughts in 2018 is a tough sell, even if it’s competently done. Unfortunately for From Ashes Reborn, the melodeath nostalgiacore wave isn’t due until 2025. – 2.0/5.0
Doc Grier – No matter how dickish you think I am, most music gets to me. And good melodic death? That gets to me like a motherfucker. Especially when a melodic death outfit screams to the skies with the power and passion of Unleashed and Amon Amarth. Though not of the Viking ilk, Germany’s From Ashes Reborn are as convincing as their Swedish brethren. Opening “The Onerous Truth” with beautiful, enrapturing piano and strings, From Ashes Reborn know how to plant the feels in my gut. Add Johan Hegg-like vocals with their Johnny Hedlund emphases and Amon Amarth-like hammer-ons and exaggerated snare hits on songs like the title track, “Homicidal Rampage,” and “Fight for the Light.” Existence Exiled features the kinds of riffs that build and build, causing both pain and anger to grow in your heart. Of the eight songs on Existence Exiled, the latter two are the beefiest—with “Homicidal Rampage” being my favorite. Want heavier melodies? “Infected,” “Existence Exiled,” “The Essence of Emptiness,” and instrumental closer “The Splendid Path” are here for you. There’s a lot o’ Amon Amarth (everything), Hypocrisy (“Infected”), and sweeping moods and atmospheres (“The Splendid Path”). There’s plenty of cloning in Existence Exiled but it does a solid job of using Swe(melo)death’s better moments within this thirty-minute debut. – 3.0/5.0
El Cuervo – I’m pleased to report that a lack of reliability means that I can piggy-back off the already-formed opinions of others. I have spent a week reading terms such as “Amon Amarth-core,” “snore” and “sweet” of Germany’s From Ashes Reborn I’ve found that all are correct! Job done. – 2.5/5/01
L. Saunders – Infrequently brilliant but often maligned and saturated in mediocrity, the melodic death scene has struggled to live up to the subgenre’s ’90s heyday. Too often marred by a lack of originality, innovation or effective balance between slicing melody, thrashy aggression and catchy song-writing. In the wake of strong comeback albums from scene veterans The Absence and Light This City, along with the solid return of the legendary At the Gates, I’ve had a solid recent fix of melodeath goodness. Straight outta Germany, From Ashes Reborn tap into the melancholic vein of Finnish melodic death on their debut, Existence Exiled. From Ashes Reborn deliver a rather typical blend of blast beats, thick growls, galloping tempos and brooding melodies. There’s not a whole lot fundamentally wrong with From Ashes Reborn‘s energetic, hefty brand of melodic death, nor is there anything overly exciting or memorable. The band favors aggression over poppy melodies and clean vocals, but the lack of gripping riffs and stirring melodies, leaves a mostly bland final imprint, despite scattered solid moments. “Follow the Rising” and “Infected” manage to inspire positive reactions, raising the album’s pulse, but overall Existence Exiled is a competently performed but largely forgettable debut. – 2.0/5.0
Huck N’ Roll – Tragic piano and strings open…a melodeath album? Apparently so, and although I’m no expert in this genre it’s an effective mood-setter to this debut album, followed immediately by blastbeats and a death metal extravaganza.2 Throughout the eight songs here, musical prowess and excellent songwriting take center stage. I love the fact that no song is longer than six minutes: brevity lends the songs immediacy. “Infected” has an excellent riff and is a standout song, while the instrumental album closer “The Splendid Path” is a short yet epic sendoff. Some variance in the vocals is all that is needed here to set From Ashes Reborn on the path of the elite: sure, they use some blackened backing vocals, but black vocals are even less my cup of tea than tea is. Throw in some cleans: the music here is fantastic, the vocals could use a few change-ups. I can’t compare this to other bands for you, but I’m sure my more well-versed co-conspirators will take care of that. Suffice it to say that I found myself actually looking forward to listening to Existence Exiled every time I turned it on. – 3.0/5.0
Treble Yell – Steven Bradbury is a minor celebrity here in Australia. Despite his meager talents, he infamously won gold in the 1000 meter ice skating event at the 2002 Winter Olympics by crossing the finish line first after four skaters ahead of him crashed out in spectacular fashion. The melodic death metal landscape has seen once talented bands skid across the ice, whether due to stagnation via coasting on prior success (Arch Enemy, Dark Tranquillity,3 Amon Amarth) or by abandoning what made them great in the first place (In Flames). All it would take to make a jaded fanbase (i.e. me) stand up and take notice would be a competent band that can recapture the Gothenburg sound without cocking up the execution. That’s precisely what Germany’s From Ashes Reborn have achieved with Existence Exiled. Sharp, tight and peppered with enough hooks to keep you returning, these Germans have delivered an impactful record that may be lacking in originality but makes up for it with aggression and a keen ear for composition. I had a lot of fun with the album, more so than a lot of other releases this year. Gold isn’t just for the best. – 3.5/5.0
Eldritch Elitist – I don’t typically like to summarize bands in a tidy, album-sticker friendly blurb, but as From Ashes Reborn has less than one hundred “likes” on Facebook as of this writing, I figure they could use one: From Ashes Reborn is a far more interesting yet equally capable version of Amon Amarth. One can practically feel the beard hairs tickling their eardrums during Existence Exiled’s broadest, burliest riffs, yet their pairing with modern metal melodics (“Fight for the Light”), Finnish melodeath swiftness (“Infected”), and blackened, blastbeat-y goodness (“The Essence of Emptiness”) are executed so seamlessly as to grant the record an undeniable uniqueness. At present the band can’t quite replicate Amon Amarth’s effortless memorability factor, and at barely thirty minutes (including two instrumentals) the entire package feels notably sparse, but this is a ridiculously impressive debut regardless. With a bit of fine tuning and a lot more publicity, FAR will go far. – 3.5/5.0
GardensTale – I love Amon Amarth. The archetypes of viking melodeath are so iconic they are practically a subgenre of their own; a subgenre to which From Ashes Reborn indubitably belongs. They do tweak things: blackened tremolo in the snappy opener “Fight for the Light” and dustings of both Gothenburg and Finnish melodic death are abound, plus there’s no mention of Thor or Ragnarök anywhere. By avoiding the Viking themes, the band avoids being an outright clone, despite the Johan Hegg vocal trappings. Existence Exiled is full of fist-pumping riffs, crisp solos and pummeling drums, and by traveling light and not overstaying their welcome, the album flies by, making it easy to digest and enjoy many times over. The professional, balanced production is just icing on the cake. If From Ashes Reborn can draw away from their most obvious inspiration, they have a bright future ahead of them. – 3.5/5.0
Lokasenna – Don’t let that metalcore-ass logo fool you.4 This is a pretty nice slice of Amon Amarth-y melodeath, most especially in the vocal lines where the vocalist is doing the most painstaking Johan Hegg impression I’ve ever heard. He doesn’t have Hegg’s throaty-ness or quite have his intensity, but effort has to count for something, right? The guitar melodies, twinned here as well in the classic template, diverge little from the template laid by their inspiration, and like AA themselves, can be a little tepid and slow for my tastes. Bright, energetic melodeath like this is like…carrot cake. It won’t sustain you all alone, and it’s at times a little sweet, but damn tasty is damn tasty. Plus, these Germans know how to keep things concise; this 31-minute mini-LP gets in, makes its statement, and gets out without overextending itself, barring some overlong bits of a few tracks. I felt bad for our comrades on Team Maltreated Appendix, and after so many melodeath albums in the past few years that couldn’t seem to figure out what “editing” means, seeing a young band that can do their thing and leave you hungry for more is refreshing. All in all, a satisfying experience for my first Rodeo. Well, not literally; I am from Texas. – 3.0/5.0
- Unfortunately the editors disagreed with this approach; I suffered three days of lashings for my laziness and was threatened with a clean water embargo until I started writing. It is true that Existence Exiled sounds very much like From Ashes Reborn‘s Swedish counterparts but is tinged with blackened influences. This gelling of styles is commendably seamless, particularly on the highlight called “Fight for the Light.” This track also demonstrates a quality that AA could never claim: dynamism. (Never in my days! I am shocked! Report to HR! – AMG) Interludes are judiciously utilized to vary the tempo and always work well, conferring atmosphere and accentuating some surprisingly delicate solos. However, the highest quality music will drag my attention back from work or reading in which I may also be engaged. While I enjoy Existence Exiled for note-taking purposes, it does not have the same pulling power as the best releases and it drifts to the background. I doubt I’ll be returning to its entirety in the future. ↩
- I’m going to suggest that “extravaganza” is overstating it a little. – AMG ↩
- REPORT TO HR! – AMG ↩
- That logo is made by the same guy who made Emperor‘s logo. Think theirs is “metalcore,” too? – AMG ↩