Psychotool – Rotten Paradise Review

Psychotool - Rotten Paradise 01Coming off a short hiatus from this fetid cesspit exalted Hall, I find myself digging through the promo bin for something familiar, something to kickstart the ol’ critical faculties. Black metal? Nah, wrong weather. Doom? Certainly rainy enough to fit, but nah. Melodeath it is then! This unfortunately-named gaggle of Germans is Psychotool. A recent bunch of up and comers, they formed in 2016 and apparently dredged enough buzz with their first demo to get noticed. Their debut, Rotten Paradise, offers a grittier flavor of melodic death metal than many, given the subgenre’s tendencies toward slicked-up production values, but how does it fare overall?

Rotten Paradise opens reasonably well with “Bringer of Death.” While it does (irritatingly) begin with an extraneous sample, Psychotool offers a solid Amon Amarth imitation, which they repeat later with “Catch the Fire.” The album continues to accelerate from there, through the Jester Race-isms of “See Them Die,” while followup track “Degenerated Humanity” recalls a sped-up version of Watain’s “Stellarvore.” The album closes with a strong three-hit combo of the Arch Enemy-esque “Bloodsuckers” and “We Will Rise” followed by weighty closer “Crusaders,” reminiscent of an old school At the Gates track with some Morbid Angel riffage sprinkled in for flavor. All tracks (except one, see below) work well, with engaging axecraft in abundance.

Unfortunately, as you might have guessed from the (uncharacteristic for me) pile of references above, there’s a serious problem. While the emulations are mildly impressive and reveal considerable instrumental chops on the musicians involved here, they prove to be the largest issue with the record overall. Bluntly, Rotten Paradise lacks personality, to the point that it’s actively distracting for the listener. Further, it results in the album lacking cohesion because most of the tracks sound like they’re by different bands. There’s also a more singular problem in middle track “Dirty Cash;” in addition to being a wonderful classroom example of how connotation changes drastically between words in English, that phrase forms the backbone of the chorus, and there’s just no way to sing, much less growl, “dirty cash!” without sounding like a dipshit.

Psychotool - Rotten Paradise 02

However, as said Psychotool exhibit a commendable level of skill. Vocalist Lars Bunde, in particular, offers a huge range of expression, ranging from lovely Hegg-ian mid-range roars and rasps to deeper gurgles, but guitarists Norbert Schneider and Stefan Klein are not to be discounted, laying down riff after compelling (if unoriginal) riff. The rhythm section is more workmanlike, as expected from a melodeath band, but they dip their toe in engaging territory occasionally as well. The production is more perfunctory; while not especially slick, particularly by melodeath standards, calling it gritty outright, as opposed to comparatively, would be woefully inaccurate, and the master is nothing to write home about either. Basic competence can be an underrated attribute in by-the-numbers output like this, however, so it’s a bit hard to begrudge.

Overall, what we have here is a stumbling first step toward what might someday be an excellent band. Despite the derivative nature of the record, Rotten Paradise reveals the chops to make some excellent melodeath once the band finds a distinct compositional voice.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Black Sunset1
Releases Worldwide: May 17th, 2019

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  1. No separate site. MDD is the parent label.
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