Babylonfall – Collapse Review

I’ve always maintained you should not be able to eat food off death metal albums. The level of dirt and grime inherent in the recordings complements the themes of death and decay in the music. Even melodeath – the gentler second-cousin twice removed of death metal – shouldn’t sound too clean in my books. Babylonfall, a new group from Finland, arrive with a fair bit of buzz surrounding their debut effort, Collapse. Ostensibly playing a brand of music in the style of latter-Amorphis, these guys hew far more closely to the ‘melo’ rather than the ‘death’ side of things. Whenever this happens, I get nervous. Too much cleanliness and melody can rob the metal engine of its fundamental horsepower. And unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s happened here.

The real problem with Collapse is how weightless it all feels. I have variously listened to this: alone with a pad of paper, on a longish walk, while folding laundry, and none of it sticks. This is for two reasons. The first is the lack of truly compelling riffs. Guitars flay, chords bounce, but there are no ear worms here that burrow into your brain. No truly interesting passages that pique the interest. Songs like “Awakening” aren’t horrible, but they too often fall into a no-man’s land between being comfortably satiating and intellectually challenging. The result is anodyne soup when you’re hungering for a steak. The second reason it’s so weightless is due to how unadventurous it is. This sounds like a million other melodeath albums, played at a fast-ish tempo, with competent skill. When almost every song has a similar tempo and structure, it all starts to blur into one. The second half of the album is particularly guilty of this: “Stars and Consellations,” “Wrath,” and “Burning Daylight” all have the same pattern; like a run on the treadmill, this predictability is both fatiguing and unmemorable.

Collapse, unfortunately, is also so pristine that it actually loses some of its power through its shiny production. Rather than violently burrowing their way into your skin, the smoothly produced riffs bounce harmlessly away and, like lost balloons at a birthday party, drift away towards the horizon. While it’s cool to not have your head smashed by a wall of lo-fi black metal, Babylonfall has swung the pendulum too far in the other direction. The crisp, clear production hobbles the momentum and robs the songs of any weight they may have established. A track like “Blood Will Be My Crown,” with its chunky riffs, is initially promising, but the smooth production sandpapers the edges until it loses any ability to draw blood. Sadly, this occurs repeatedly throughout the album, and highlights, rather than hides, the songwriting deficiencies.

On the plus side for Babylonfall, when vocalist Okko Solanterä growls, he sounds authentic and compelling. There’s weight and commitment in his singing missing from a lot of the instrumentation. He’s an extremely talented vocalist, and “Silence” and “Stars and Constellations” demonstrate the full range of his roars, shrieks and howls, executed with exemplary control. It works fantastically… and then he goes clean. For reasons unknown, the guys of Babylonfall repeatedly try to shoe-horn tenor singing into their music, and it just sounds weird. Given the power of Solanterä’s harshness, it’s yet another baffling decision on this record filled with them.

Collapse represented an interesting challenge for me. Trying to figure out why it was so uninteresting was a lot more interesting than the music itself. There’s nothing terrible here, and many will think I’ve been too harsh, but metal – and art’s – raison d’etre is to provoke a response. Collapse elicited almost nothing. Dull riffs, repetitive structure, unadventurous compositions, and overproduction just can’t be saved by occasionally cool vocals. I’d happily serve my long-departed gran a meal on this record: it’s that clean and inoffensive. Knowing her, she’d probably tell me to get some proper food. With some goddamn chili.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Inverse Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: April 24th, 2020

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