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Deadlock - The Arsonist
Written by Max Levites   
Friday, 16 August 2013

CD Info
Napalm Records
10 Tracks
English Lyrics

Deadlock - The Arsonist

Deadlock is a name I’ve heard here and there over the past few years but, other than a song or two, I’d never really listened to them before. Until now, it seems like they’ve avoided detection by the Sonic Cathedral radar entirely. Turns out the band, formed in 1997, has been around just as long as some of the bigger names in the female-fronted metal scene. Their newest album, The Arsonist, is their 6th full-length and their first after going through some significant line-up changes and joining the pantheon of “new” talent on the Napalm Records roster.

My interest was piqued after I saw the video for the album’s lead single, “I’m Gone.” I really loved the clip’s post-apocalyptic vibe and, though by now it’sconsidered little more than a cliché, I enjoyed the violent juxtaposition between the crushing metalcore riffs and brutal screams of John Gahlert and the sweet, silky vocals of Sabine Scherer. When Sonic Cathedral received a promo of the album, I jumped at the chance to hear more and see just what this band can do. Though the album has its faults, I can’t say I’m disappointed, and in fact, The Arsonist is a record that requires more than one listen and grows on you with each spin.

There are certainly some highs on this album: the band plays this brutal-tender aesthetic all the way through with great results, and for the most part, the choruses on these tracks are nothing short of phenomenal. John and Sabine are both great vocalists, the former delivering unwavering brutal screams and growls for the album’s full 41 minutes while the later adds her tender crooning touch to compliment and contrast with her vocal partner. Sabine’s vocals, a bit squeaky but pleasant overall, soar over the crunchy riffs and pounding drums to full effect. These combinations are best showcased on tracks like “I’m Gone,” the title track “The Arsonist,” the epic “The Final Storm,” and the catchy closing number “My Pain.” “Hurt” shows just what Sabine can do as she transitions from a somber croon to a powerful and emotional wail towards the end. The instrumentation here is also fantastic. The breakdowns in these songs are perfect for headbanging, the industrial and symphonic touches really breathe life into a number of the tracks like “The Final Storm” and “Hurt,” andthe guitar solos bind it all together to create a cohesive soundscape.

Of course, no album is complete without a story. The Arsonist tells the tale of a post-apocalyptic dystopia, a failed revolution, and the ultimate fall of the aforementioned Arsonist into a deep pit of despair. The saga is reflected in the music itself: as the title track transitions between harder and softer parts, it conjures up the image of a world on fire, simultaneously violent and beautiful. “The Final Storm” is anempoweringbattle cry, backed by choirs and triumphant symphonics, that brings hope for a new age of peace, while “Hurt” illustrates the protagonist’s descent into despair, captured flawlessly by Sabine’s vocal prowess as song builds up to an emotional peak that acts as the album’s climax. “Smalltown Boy,” a cover of Bronski Beat’s 80’s hit (what’s with female-fronted metal bands and covering this song?), sees the protagonist on the run, forced into exile, and the desolation he feels is perfectly conveyed in the album’s closer, “My Pain,” ending the story with the title character’s eventual suicide. This is the kind of thing I wish more bands would do on their releases, as albums become exponentially more entertaining when there’s an overarching concept to be unveiled track by track.

Though this album certainly features its share of highs, it unfortunately has a number of lows as well. The band seems to rely entirely on this hard-soft juxtaposition to make the music interesting, and though it works to an extent, it does get tiring after a while. Though the intros vary, the first six songs on this album feature the exact same structure: heavy verses growled by John, soft and catchy chorus sung by Sabine, and a breakdown that often features both a heavy and a soft part. This formulaic tendency gets old rather quickly, and it’s not until the seventh track that the band finally mixes things up a little. Because of this, a number of songs, such as “Dead City Sleepers,” “Darkness Divine,” and “As We Come Undone,” all decent in their own right, become entirely forgettable in the shadows of their more successful counterparts. It’s also disappointing to see that the two vocalists, though they juxtapose each other throughout the album, don’t sing together until the last two tracks. This is such a shame because their voices complement each other so wonderfully, and we don’t get to hear just how well they click until the very end of the record on the chorus of “My Pain.” It seems as if the band’s trying to keep it safe instead of really testing their limits. Where the band should play to their strengths, their two fantastic vocalists who complement each other perfectly, and their impeccable skill at crafting strong choruses, they instead opt for the safer option and stick to a formula, afraid their audience might run for the hills if they stray from it, saving their more varied songs to a point where they hope the listener is drawn in enough to stay for the end. Instead, we get the opposite effect, and there’s a good chance the listener might get bored before they get to the best parts of the album.

No doubt, The Arsonist is an enjoyable album, and one that requires more than one listen to fully appreciate. However, the band shouldn’t be afraid to play with their song structures a bit. Deadlock has a good thing going for them, but they also have the potential to be so much more, and they shouldn’t be afraid of reaching to achieve it.

Standout tracks: “I’m Gone,” “The Arsonist,” “The Final Storm,” “Hurt,” and “My Pain”.

7.5 / 10

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