Core. Not derived from apples or occupying the space below the Earth’s mantle, but of the musical ilk. Born of hardcore and its angry urgency, heavy metal has long since identified the musical and emotive commonalities between the two genres, fusing the two into “metalcore.” While the melodic metalcore which has become synonymous with the genre always had much more to do with Iron Maiden and Gothenburg melodic death metal than thoroughbred hardcore, deathcore has generally retained the brute force of both of its composite styles. Do I adjudge such potency in Germany’s Praying Angel and their debut full-length release called The Judgement?
If nothing else, The Judgement surely fits squarely into the intersection of death metal and hardcore. The roaring, angry vocals are a more guttural version of what one may find in typical hardcore, therefore sitting between the two genres, while the aggressive guitars are the other focal point of the music as would be expected. This is a very far cry from melodic metalcore. The closest it reaches are the frequent breakdowns which also characterize the core styles, designed to break apart tracks and get your head banging; but this unquestionably a heavy album.
It is also hard to deny the largely strong riffing here, heard it all before though you may have. Strong grooves are boasted around the two-minute mark on opener “War of Gods” and on the title track, with an excellent shredding lead on “Spawnkill.” A part of the strength of these riffs is the commendable directness with which The Judgement is written. The minimal bullshit manner is only undermined by a slightly extended introduction to the final track called “Worthless Existence” and an interlude on “To the Judge,” both of which succeed in their objectives of building dynamism and diversifying the track-listing. Solos are brief but effective, while the entirety is but 32 minutes which bolsters the blunt force trauma approach used here.
It is therefore fitting yet unfortunate that the record’s production also makes for a headache. The battling, blasting drum tones sound outright bad with clicky tom-toms and an alarming snare, to the extent that they are actively distracting from the music otherwise. Meanwhile, the bass drums and bass guitar are barely heard, let alone felt. Compounding my issue with the drums is that they are far too loud in the mix, along with the vocals. The result is that the best element of the Praying Angel sound—namely the groovy, rhythmic guitars—is strangely buried. The vocals blur amid barely distinguishable roaring so it is in the guitars that tracks are most obviously separated; however, drawing out these riffs takes more effort than it should on account of the unbalanced mix.
Praying Angel can be likened to a bludgeon. There’s nary a subtle bone in their German bodies as riffs are piled on roars are piled on breakdowns. It certainly has immediate impact and some strong riffs but I am compelled to question how many times I can take the pummeling before the production induces brain damage or my interest ultimately wanes. The Judgement is a forceful statement of intent but remains an unrefined release.