Swedish musician Ola Englund is a busy fellow. Between stints helping rejuvenate The Haunted on their solid return to form platter Exit Wounds and breathing a glimmer of life into the caveman corpse of Six Feet Under on their Unborn album, Englund has also built a solid and prolific output with his main band, Feared. I became pleasantly acquainted with the band’s modern metal stylings via their double whammy 2013 releases, Furor Incarnatus and Vinter. While hardly year-end material, I enjoyed both albums and found them to be respectable and sturdy slabs of chunky, groove-based thrash coupled with a distinctly homeland flavored strain of melodic death metal. Englund’s solid song-writing skills, strong array of energized riffs and shredtastic solo action lifted some of the band’s more generic elements up a few notches, resulting in a pair of barnstorming modern metal albums that were groovy, catchy and executed with a solid degree of technical prowess. Frankly it’s the kind of shit the bigger labels should be pedaling, striking a keen balance between gnarlier underground extremity and easier to swallow accessibility that could potentially draw in a more mainstream aligned metal crowd. Yet on their sixth full-length album, entitled Synder, Feared remain an underrated gem flying the independent flag.
On top of a solid formula, Feared also feature Jocke Skog (ex-Clawfinger) and hired gun Kevin Talley in their ranks as well as Demonoid vocalist Mario Ramos, who lends the album a heavier edge with his gruff vocals. Synder covers similar territory to its pair of predecessors, albeit charting a darker and heavier path which bumps up the death metal ratio of their sound. And while there’s nothing especially innovative about what Feared do, Englund and co share a knack for crafting catchy metal songs that maintain a cracking pace, keeping the adrenaline pumping and the grooves flowing. So even when some tracks are stronger and more identifiable than others, each song offers at least a few noteworthy moments. Following the moody scene setting instrumental opener, Feared click into gear with the lightning riffery and steroid charged death-thrash assault of “Your Demise.” It’s a fast and aggressive tune littered with blast beats and typically graceful soloing, setting the album in motion with fast, stylish aggression.
Burlier groove-dominant beatdowns such as “Caligula” and “By Silent Screaming” show off Feared’s more varied compositional skills and catchy song-writing, letting stuttering complex grooves and spacious harmonies take hold. Talley’s drumming is a cut above most of his auto-pilot session jobs since his remarkable performances smashing the skins for Dying Fetus oh so long ago. But if I haven’t made it clear enough already, the stellar guitar work of Englund steals the show. The man is a goddamn riff machine, blending styles deftly, from slick Gothenburg-styled melodies and harmonies, to slithery proggy flourishes, aggro thrash riffs and bluesy Pantera-esque grooves. Englund’s impressive skills are on show during Synder’s strongest period, represented through a triumphant, back-to-back trio of songs, featuring the aggro attack of “Wolf at the End of the World,” Stockholm stomp of “My Own Redemption” and breakneck thrash and blast of “Dying Day,” which climaxes with some downright soulful shredding.
As admirably tight, aggressive and groovy as Synder most surely is, there are a few issues that hold the album back. Something is amiss with the production, dulling the album’s overall impact. It’s plenty polished and far weightier than previous albums, with the guitars sounding nice and chunky, but it also seems to lack refinement in places and is quite heavily compressed. Aside from its sonic deficiencies, Synder could have been tightened up had the band been a little more ruthless and left a couple of the more unremarkable songs on the cutting floor.
Overall Feared are a good band with much to offer, particularly under the guidance of the talented Englund. While the song-writing doesn’t always stick, Synder is for the most part a very enjoyable slab of fast, darkly aggressive and varied modern metal with plenty of killer riffs and bulldozing grooves to sink your teeth into.