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The Absence - Riders of the Plague Review

by Matt Hensch

Florida's metal tribe hasn't had a group like The Absence leading the pack for a very long time. The scene itself seemed to level off after the 1990's into another breeding ground of typical brutal bands, yet The Absence have really improved from the generic 'blasterbation' squad into a special supernova of shining melody and scorching heaviness. With such a unique star came From Your Grave, which was considered a reincarnation of all sorts in the Gothenburg genre, but that was only the start of The Absence's wave of success.

Now in 2007, The Absence has returned from a brief pause with the highly-anticipated Riders of the Plague. And of course, The Absence is still improving within their genre and continues to stand original amongst their metallic counterparts. With the band's electric persona intact, The Absence bring forth a superb record of stellar melodic death metal that beats in your colon and relaxes your muscles on a synchronic basis.

Musically, The Absence has evolved from their Gothenburg roots of From Your Grave into a fierce melodic-influenced death metal cult that emits a bright flash of originality. The multiple subjects that defined The Absence's identity on From Your Grave are dissected into three pure forms: speed, melody, and heaviness. Ironically, Peter Joseph and Patrick Pintavalle are able to balance the use of melodic harmonies and leads amongst their speedy riffing whilst maintaining a lethal edge of relentless brutality; where most melodic death guitarists fail, this duo of shredding succeeds. As I said, the riffs are wonderfully separated into melodic chops and fast riffs, yet there's one thing will certainly catch a lot of folks in left field: the solos.

Time and time again, Joseph and Pintavalle engage in epic soloing like it was their only source of income. There are probably around thirty honest solos throughout all thirteen anthems, and each helps zap the pulse when things start to slow up a bit. And let me clarify that these leads aren't just some simple harmony with four notes on a ten second repetition pattern, but full-blown examples of shredding the s*** out of one's guitar. It is a truly amazing display of talent and partnership these two gunners have shown on Riders of the Plague.

Also, Jamie Steward's great collage of harsh grunts and shrieks add several key elements to The Absence's clear excellence. He appears like the typical cloned vocalist when you first hear his shrieks, yet the music bends his form into a semi-Tomas Lindberg monster that bravely flies through epic woods of screaming, and vast valleys of parched growls. The man clearly shows he can properly perform a transition between the two vocal effects like it's a walk in the park; he's a fantastic vocalist in every way possible.

Riders of the Plague scores big on several huge plays, yet the CD's top moment emerges during the perfect cover of Testament's "Into the Pit." Now The Absence and Testament sound almost nothing alike, and this risky cover isn't notably differently aside from The Absence's one norm: play it us, not like them. And from this comes a stellar version of "Into the Pit" with Steward's best vocal performance to date, plus the hyper-pulsed percussion and riffing with traces of individualism all around. It's simply the perfect way to remake a song, and they pulled it off flawlessly.

Riders of the Plague is basically a trophy in modern melodic death metal; it displays everything done right, and the way it should be: beautiful and poetic albeit heavy all around. The Absence is a fantastic group that thrives on a ballad of consistency and pure excellence, so do yourself a favor and buy Riders of the Plague. It is a purchase you'll be glad you made.

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The Absence - Riders of the Plague


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