Buried Realm – Embodiment of the Divine Review

My grandfather always liked to say to me “when in doubt, start a solo project,” and while I’ve never personally taken his advice, my respect for one-man bands has never waned. Buried Realm is the solo project of Josh Dummer. Embodiment of the Divine will be his second full-length release under this moniker, and is apparently one of those projects that include guest appearances on every track. In this case, guest musicians include Dean Arnold (Operus), Andy Gillion (Mors Principium Est), Benjamin Ellis (Scar Symmetry), and Ryan Strain (Chaos for the Masses). With an apparent host of influences, guests, and experience, Dummer’s take on melodic death metal is, practically by definition, flexible and engaging. But how does it hold up?

Buried Realm play an eager, galloping sort of melodeath, with lots of speedy leads, upbeat riffs, synthesizers, and solos everywhere. It’s almost as if Blind Guardian enthusiasm and subject matter met up with Scar Symmetry’s love of ambience and melodic-yet-death-y riffs, while the vocalists from the latter act offered helpful hints here and there.1 The guitar leads from “Overlord” could probably find a happy home amongst traditional metal enthusiasts, while “Scales of Queen Dragon” could easily be edited into some killer power metal. Dummer’s cited influences include Symphony X and “tons of old hair metal,” which absolutely checks out on Embodiment of the Divine. On top of it all, Dummer (and perhaps a guest or two? I can’t be sure) rasps, gurgles, sings,2 and growls as material demands, creating a good back-and-forth and welcome vocal versatility. Strong technical skill and solid songwriting are great launching points for Buried Realm’s sophomore outing.

Unfortunately, I’ve found I have a hard time connecting with many of the album’s catharses, and the reason lies with the production. I’m obligated by AMG secret codes of conduct to mention that Dan Swäno3 is responsible for the album master, while the mixing and production was handled by Dummer himself. My issue comes down to the relative absence of a low end anywhere on the album, essentially robbing Embodiment of the Divine of its punch. There are two primary casualties to this decision: the drums and the bass. Honestly, no amount of EQ fiddling or volume management on my part could convince me that there even is a bass on this album. As for the drums, they are low in the mix, surfacing once in a while to texturize and decorate songs, but they lack any kind of impact for the listener, which steals a lot of the album’s energy out from under it.

I can understand why these decisions were made – Buried Realm are working with upbeat, catchy music that spends more time working with high frequencies than low ones. The leads and main riffs for songs like “Silver Tongue” and “Embodiment of the Divine” are more aggressive than they are heavy, and shining a spotlight on those bright leads and head-nod-worthy chords makes good sense on paper. The trouble arises when songs like “Scales of Queen Dragon” feel like they should be accompanied by a raised heartbeat and instinctive air guitar, but the energy simply doesn’t flow through. Songs like the above sound catchy and enjoyable, but wind up feeling hollow. It doesn’t make Embodiment of the Divine a tough listen, nor does it take away from the album’s flair or catchiness – “Scales of Queen Dragon” has been taking up a good amount of space in my brain for the past little while – but I can never shake the feeling of something missing from this album.

So what do you call it when a really well-written album falls victim to a disagreeable production? You’d think we’d have a term for that by now, but I know of none – so I’m going with “mixed.” My feelings on Embodiment of the Divine are very mixed. I commend Buried Realm for their songwriting, performances, and ambition. I wish this album sounded different. I wish it punched me in the face and dragged me along by the skull. I still recommend giving this one a chance – but I personally am hoping to hear a fuller sound on the next release. I’m certainly looking forward to it.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: buriedrealm.bandcamp.com | BuriedRealm.com | facebook.com/BuriedRealm
Released Worldwide: July 24, 2020

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Which might actually be true, given Ellis’s contributions.
  2. I believe the cleans are all guest performers, but, again, I can’t be certain.
  3. I’m also obligated to refer to him as “The Man” at least once.
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