A few years ago I had a strange and insatiable desire to find the simplest and punkiest blackened thrash imaginable. My search led me to find gems like Chapel and other bands I didn’t enjoy as much, including Power from Hell. Led by vocalist and guitarist “Sodomic,” the Brazilian trio have been kicking around since 2001 and released four albums before their 2015 Hells Headbangers debut Devil’s Whorehouse. That album should have been right up my alley, but the rawness went a little too far and the lack of memorable riffs called to mind the lackluster blackened thrash of Diabolic Force. Four years later Sodomic has a new lineup, a new label, and a fresh new sound for sixth album Profound Evil Presence. The basic blackened thrash of their past has morphed into something bigger and more malevolent, something at once familiar and foreboding. If only that meant it was actually good.
Aside from a couple riffs, there really isn’t any thrash left in Power‘s sound. Instead the band have turned into a melodic black metal group that reminds me of a simpler version of Mgla or a less aggressive Watain. The change has come out of left field but seems to work initially. “When Night Falls” is a strong start with its galloping pace, notable chorus, and ominous midsection of tangled clean notes. “False Puritan Philosophies” is even better, opening with a glorious melodic black metal riff straight out of the Exercises in Futility playbook before adding some skewered notes that nod to the band’s thrashy past. It’s a cool combination that works surprisingly well.
There’s a lot of good riffs to be found on Presence, particularly the catchy tremolo line that opens “Unholy Dimension.” Sadly there are a lot of issues as well. Nearly every one of these 11 tracks is propelled by the same quick, galloping rhythm, and while there are a few welcome slow passages sprinkled throughout, that’s far from enough to break up the monotony. There are no “fast” or “slow” songs here and as a result I find myself starting to get bored right around the halfway point of these 43 minutes. It doesn’t help that the later songs are generally weaker than the earlier ones and occasionally contain riffs that sound like retreads of prior ideas. “Diabolical Witchcraft” has a verse riff that sounds like the chorus of “Lust…Sacrilege and Blood” and the song as a whole feels very similar to the track that precedes it. The worst offender is anticlimactic closer “Demons of the Night,” which aside from one decent riff sounds like it’s built entirely from whatever was found on the cutting room floor.
It’s clear Power are trying to capture the scope of Mgla but they lack the compositional maturity to pull it off. Mgla excel at writing songs that captivate and build drama. By contrast, Power‘s songs don’t really build at all and thus the band are at their best earlier in the album, when they simply deliver a good set of riffs and get the hell out of the way. On the plus side, Sodomic’s croaky rasp is a good fit for the music, as are the surprisingly clear and epic solos that occasionally cut through the riffs and soar like bats out of hell. The production also works well, retaining a raw edge while leaving the guitars clear and potent.
It’d be wrong to say that Profound Evil Presence is a bad album. There are many good riffs peppered throughout and several songs that are wholly enjoyable. Yet Presence falters in execution. It’s too long, there are too many similar tempos and ideas, and the band’s songwriting fails to conjure the dramatic heft of their primary influence. Power from Hell have the potential to make this melodic black metal sound work for them and I’m actually glad to see a change in style after the mediocre Devil’s Whorehouse. For now, Presence is a decent album, but nothing spectacular and certainly not something you’ll be seeing on Top 10 lists come year’s end.