According to our esteemed Dr. Wvrm, I don’t know shit about the melodic death metal scene. Everything that I’ve enjoyed this year from the melodic death field is, in actuality, melodic black. In my defense, some of it sounds fucking deathy. But I’m pretty sure all this year’s goddamn black metal has fucked up my taste. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy melodeath but, I suppose, I’ve fallen out of touch with the style. Bands like Hypocrisy and Dark Tranquillity were like gateway drugs for me. I remember getting heavy into the style about a decade ago and then it seemed to run its course. And, as most of my favorite bands carry on with run-of-the-mill material, while others—like Soilwork, Arch Enemy, and In Flames—continue to bore me to fucking death, it’s become even more clear that I’ve fallen away from the genre. So, in hopes of rekindling some of those flames, I grabbed Parasite Inc.‘s Dead and Alive. What the hell was I thinking?
For those that already know the band, you know this isn’t what I was imagining. Sure, I’m a little picky about my melodeath bands. But, I mean, Parasite Inc. doesn’t sound like any of the ones I enjoy. That said, it’s too late; I’m already invested. Instead of bathing in the melodic soup that is Dark Tranquillity, Parasite Inc. offers up a style that spits and punches with the intensity of Arch Enemy and Children of Bodom. And that hasn’t changed since their 2013 debut, Time Tears Down—as trimmed and straight-forward a Bodom album as I’ve ever heard. But it’s clear that Dead and Alive desires to be more than a Time Tears Down, Part II. Bruisers, cruisers, upbeat pieces, downbeat ones, keys and thick atmospheres: this is what awaits you.
But, right away, the band has me cocking my head to the side of the key-led opener “Countershock”—an instrumental piece that reminds me of something a Ghost–Raunchy bastard child would write. Then, the band unleashes “Once and for All”—a crushing number that is less of a surprise. It has a badass lick that marries Arch Enemy to Children of Bodom, with a touch of Dez Fafara (DevilDriver) in the vocals. It’s the kind of abrasive assault that reminds me of the time I saw Bodom back in 2003—with Alex Laiho spitting loogies into the crowd… But, for all its simplicity and I’ll-kill-your-entire-family attitude, it’s one of the better cuts on the album. For other ball-busting numbers, though, you’ll have to make some concessions. Because they ain’t as good.
Said numbers are “Headfuck Rollercoaster, “Fall of the Idealist,” and (to some extent) “Cold Silent Hell.” The first has the same drive and intensity as “Once and for All” but with lyrics as dumb as the best Nickelback song. It has some fun Bodom-isms but, do yourself a favor, and shut those words out. “Fall of the Idealist” builds a chorus out of Bodom and then crafts a melodic build toward the end that screams of Soilwork. If it wasn’t for those Fear Factory drum and guitar blasts at the beginning, this track would be a favorite. “Cold Silent Hell” does a little better than the others, using an Evergrey-like riff to get things rolling before it breaks down into the most-crushing assault of the record with, yet again, another Bodom chorus.
There’s definitely some diversity to Dead and Alive that didn’t exist on Time Tears Down. But, in this case, less is more. “Sunset Overdrive,” for example, is simple. It has a good drive and a chorus made for the stage. “This World” also appears simple on staff paper. But its key-heavy combination of Bodom, Hypocrisy, and Raunchy doesn’t work. And there’re others, like “Dead and Alive” and “Red Wine Collider,”1 who are about as confused as a Hotel, Restaurant Management major sitting in on an organic chemistry course. “Red Wine Collider”2 is painted in a fine coat of synthesized atmosphere that turns to whip and whirling Bodom-esque guitar work and dueling solos before… falling into nothingness? The melodic transition that takes its place isn’t shit but I thought I thought we’d switched to another song. The same thing goes for the title-track closer. After opening with a goofy, upbeat, beer-swigging attitude, this thing collapses into one of the more melodic passages of the album. Again, the transition ain’t bad but the song’s direction is confusing.
And, no, I’m gonna talk about the “Empty Streets” cover from the synth-pop outfit, Scandroid. So, forget about it. Now, I’m not going to deny the band’s desire to expand their sound, incorporating more influences and more atmosphere in their music. Unfortunately, it doesn’t meld into a sleek album and the bumps in the road are quite noticeable. That said, the band sounds more comfortable here than on the debut. Both in the vocals and songwriting. But, from beginning to end, Time Tears Down is a tighter album than its successor, with a theme that holds it together. I just hope that the band’s next record will find the combination of the debut’s fluidity with Dead or Alive‘s energy.