At the end of 2014, I had the pleasure of reviewing the debut album by Stormcast, a band hailing from the island of Cyprus. Frame of Mind was filled with a passion I still can’t fully articulate except that this passion appears to be lacking in many bands of similar style. So when shuffling through this month’s promos, I came across Blynd (another Cypritian band) and I couldn’t help but hope for another stunner. Taking queues from acts like Machine Head, Rotting Christ and Septicflesh, Blynd‘s newest release mixes influences and inspirations without “stealing” them. Like a true architect, Liber Sum borrows ideas for the design but when the structure is built, it takes on a character all its own. Blynd may not make your end-of-the-year lists but if you have never heard these Cypriots before, let them do what they do best: assist you in cracking open your flask of bottled-up aggression, letting the steam release with a hiss and allowing it to billow into blynding rage.
For those Blynd virgins out there (like myself), their debut [The Enemy] delivers loads of progressiveness, endless amounts of riffs, and a Vio-lence-meets-Machine Head attitude that results in some of the band’s most stunning performances (for example, the technically crushing “Rage and Mindgames,” the wildly progressive “Circle of Life,” and the sludgy “Human Torch”). Despite being a bit disjointed and harboring a terrible production job, a physical copy is worth your precious pennies. Following it up with Punishment Unfolds, the band took a more streamlined approach that tapped into the orchestrations and deathisms of Septicflesh. Focusing more on the “crunchy” and “heavy,” their sophomore release also suffered from a dull production and an end-result that felt a bit more accessible. Now with a new release focusing on fine-tuning those elements of Punishment, with a lyrical direction and concept evolving around the history of their homeland, Blynd are back to beat you down with a shit-load of riffs, and then build you back up with the hope scribed in all-caps on their album cover.
“Bread and Circuses” opens with an orchestral Septicflesh intro that morphs into a side-swiping death riffage and Andreas’ mix of Johan Hegg (Amon Amarth), Johnny Hedlund (Unleashed), and Sakis Tolis (Rotting Christ). The opener also teases the listener with some new elements in Blynd‘s arsenal. These include monstrous layered choruses that bark forth in unison like the chest-pounding moments of Rotting Christ‘s Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού. This approach presents itself in other tracks like “Phobos” and “Al-Kimiya.” It gives the album a “bigness” that fits with the driving death-thrash riffs, the splashes of orchestration and the overall concept of the album.
But the real standout tracks have to be the thrashtastic “Barbarians,” the Panzerchrist bulldozer that is the title track, the beautifully crafted orchestral instrumental “Under High Seas (A Prelude to the King),” and closer “The Kingdom Within.” “Barbarians” is a fucking wrecking ball that sports a highly addictive chorus, some heavy emotion in the form of submissive spoken-word elements, and a riff-after-riff onslaught reminiscent of The Enemy‘s “Rage and Mindgames.” Conversely, “Under High Seas” is a full orchestral piece and a true intermission at the center of the album. Its gorgeous ambiance makes my knees give out just in time for the end of its two-minute run-time and “Liber Sum” comes down on top of my head like ten-ton elbow drop. The title track tosses around Room Service-era Panzerchrist with riffs piling up like a Royal Rumble doggy pile. The closer wraps all the emotion of the album into a single track that encourages all to take their freedom and stand together to defend it. The powerful clip at the end of the closer is worth the purchase alone.
The riffs are there, the orchestration is tasteful and not overdone, and the overall emotion in the driving rhythms of songs like “In the Epicenter” and “Al-Kimiya” bruise like the simplistic, chest-beating emotions of Amon Amarth. Liber Sum has that ambition that wasn’t fully honed on Blynd‘s previous releases but, unfortunately, it still suffers from a production lacking the “pop” to bring all these great performances to the front. However, minus the production shortcomings and personal desires for some of the off-kilter oddities found on The Enemy, this a very good album and another Cypritian band I will love for years to come.