Angelcrypt – Dawn of the Emperor Review

We don’t get much metal from the tiny island nation of Malta. It has a smaller population than my home town in New York and the AMG archives reveal coverage of only 3 other acts hailing from that neck of the Mediterranean. Now melodic death metal crew Angelcrypt is lucky number 4 to make the leap with their second album, Dawn of the Emperor. Adopting a sound that recalls Amok-era Sentenced with elements of Amon Amarth, and Bolt Thrower, these Maltese marauders try to impress with catchy writing, beefy riffs and all sorts of atmospheres as they tell tales of World War I. A band that’s been around in one form or another since 1997, Angelcrypt have the ability to craft some interesting, engaging songs, but they also step on a few land mines along the way, making Dawn a mixed bag of munitions. When it works, it’s quite enjoyable and punchy. When it misfires, there are ear casualties. War is Hell and writing about war ain’t always easy either.

Things open with a moody, Sabaton-esque intro with somber choral singing and increasingly dramatic music set against the sounds of historical new reels and battlefield chaos. Well enough, but as it winds down, a super serious voice intones, “Welcome to Dawn of the Emperor.” Folks, don’t ever welcome the listener to your album like this. It’s super cheesy and gets things off to a really rough start. Imagine Slayer having a “Welcome to Reign in Blood” before “Angel of Death” kicked off? Yep. Don’t do this. This is a shame, since followup cut “Clockwork Blood Red” isn’t bad. It’s straight up melodeath with big, burly riffs and an interesting attempt to bring in classic metal harmonies just as Sentenced did on Amok cuts like “Forever Lost.” Unfortunately, a slightly amateurish vibe looms over the proceedings and overly dramatic vocal moments lessen the enjoyment. The band really comes into their own on “Iron Creed,” which is a riff monster with an icy Dark Tranquillity feel to it. Give me an album full of this kind of stuff and you have a new fan.

The title track also clicks, introducing mammoth riffs that recall Morbid Angel’s “God of Emptiness” in a song that sounds like a melodic take on Bolt Thrower. It’s apparent from tracks like this that the band has some really good ideas. They just can’t always execute them properly, and “Martyred Soul” trots out some of the worst excesses of Crematory. You get cheesy keyboards, overly upbeat melodies and guitar solos that feel really raw and unpolished, like those of a high school band. While there are parts of every song I enjoy and the band manage some really engaging moments on “As Death Endures” and “The Black Hand,” little errors regularly disrupt their good works. Basically Dawn of the Emperor is a collection of solid songs, some of which get derailed by odd choices and amateur missteps. This makes for a frustrating experience as the band is so close to getting things right.

Frontman Joseph Grech does a solid job on much of the material. He’s got a death bark that’s uncannily similar to Felix of Crematory fame with a touch of Johan Hegg mixed in. However, whenever he tries to emote more feeling, as he does on “Clockwork Blood Red,” he gets way too hammy and clammy, hurting the mood of the song. The guitar tandem of Shawn Mizzi and Peter Grech is the reason much of Dawn works, while simultaneously being responsible for the bulk of the shortcomings. They regularly deliver powerful, driving riffs with a big Amon Amarth influence and these carry the songs well. Their solo-work however is not very good and sometimes it’s outright bad. There’s a poor tone to some of the solos, others sound like they belong on an alt-rock album, and a few sound like a kid with a few weeks of guitar practice wailing away in his bedroom imagining he’s the next Yngwie. Rough stuff.

Dawn of the Emperor is a weird album. Despite its flaws, I still enjoy most of it. That speaks to the writing talent Angelcrypt possesses. They’re getting enough right to nearly overcome some major wrongs. If they could reduce the mistakes and misfires, they should be able to uncork a major league ass kicking sometime in the future. While I can’t fully recommend this effort, I’m impressed enough to give them another try next time. Sample with caution and watch for ear mines.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Boersma Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: June 12th, 2020

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