I’ve always thought that tech death and melodeath are more similar than most people realize. Both mainly use riffs comprised of individual notes played in succession, the difference is that tech death is faster, more complex, and typically has better T-shirts. I used to be quite interested in music which fused the two styles, namely early Arsis, early Revocation, and Vornagar’s sole album.1 These days I typically veer toward the blacker and thrashier realms, which is why I found it so surprising that Enblood’s Cast to Exile appealed to me as much as it did.
Formed in 2015, this Portuguese quartet hit a musical sweet spot with this debut: riffs that are complex enough to feel technical, yet simple and catchy enough to sound like melodeath. As such there are obvious parallels to Inferi or Psycroptic, but interestingly enough, the riffing reminds me more of All Shall Perish than anything else. Much like those Oakland deathcore titans, “Cast to Exile” and “Earth Raised Creation” rocket forward on melodies that dart over the fretboard with frantic purpose, bouncing around like a laser fired in a room full of mirrors. While breakdowns are nowhere to be found, songs like “Strayed Path of Dementia” and “Abyssal Consolation of Souls” still increase the heftiness with some brief techy chugs that provide a nice break from the careening pace.
Yet my favorite tracks reside the second half. “Leviathan” features an awesome ascending chorus that sounds like the titular beast is actually rising from the depths, while “Under Werewolves’ Skies” has a rapid staccato melody that never fails to make me bust out the air guitar. Though Exile repeats its riffs often and the song structures are fairly straightforward, that’s almost entirely offset by how outstanding the guitar solos are. Normally I find solos to be little more than a tasty topping; here, they truly take the songs to the next level, swirling with colorful melody and soaring to nearly the same heights as those on Death’s Symbolic or Sound of Perseverance.
The modern production is a good fit, but what’s really notable is how audible and distinct the bass guitar is. As a result, it’s easy to appreciate the numerous occasions when the bass lines deviate from the riffs, most notably on closer “Procession.” Likewise, late highlight “Black Morning” features rapid yet reflective intervals that sound amazing enough on their own, but are made doubly cool by the bass guitar playing counterpoint below them.
It’s moments like these that show Enblood aren’t just proficient at their instruments, they also know how to write great music. Months after I first heard Exile, I was amazed by how many of these riffs stuck with me, which is a lot to say for an album whose style I rarely care for these days. Many listens later, Cast to Exile has unveiled itself as an exciting and inspired debut that’s sure to delight fans of tech death, melodeath, or any combination thereof.
Tracks to Check Out: “Leviathan,” “Black Morning,” “Under Werewolves’ Skies”