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Ensnared | ‘Ravenous Damnations Dawn’


You get the sense, sometimes, that the legacy of their country’s reputation for being some kind of Death Metal promised land in the early 90s has been a heavy burden to the bands that have emerged from Sweden’s underground in the last five to ten years.

There’s been something of an identity crisis a lot of the time, whereby a lot of newer acts seem to have adopted Death Metal as a nostalgic form, slipping with ease into a mindless aping of the early work of the bands who popularised that HM2 laden familiar sound without any personality of their own beneath the shadow of the old Sunlight Studios oak tree.

These are the bands who use “tradition” often times as a cover for nostalgia or – perhaps more accurately- laziness.

But then on the other hand, a whole bunch of other bands have veered away from that sound and in a reactionary manner and instead gone for a sound that’s more rooted in the early days of the US bands whose 80s demos paved the way for the genre to grow.

As understandable as this reactionary strain is, it’s just as fucking pointless a lot of the time, resulting in simplistic garbage.

It’s unfortunate that the number of individual, forward looking bands from Sweden pushing Death Metal onward currently is worryingly low, compared to what seems like a veritable swamp of retro themed copyists.

Ensnared aren’t quite up there with the likes of Tribulation, Irkallian Oracle or Necrovation just yet in this latter grouping of exciting new bands. But they’re well on their way.

Having languished in some sort of weird hiatus for what feels like a couple of years due to line up changes, they’ve regrouped and presented a 4 track, 30 minute mini lp here that builds on their sole previous release, a demo from a couple of years back.

In fact the record opens with a revamped version of “Adorations” from that demo that serves as both a fitting statement of intent and a clear indication that they’ve evolved.

Like their countrymen Degial who produced a disappointing debut lp in a similar vein last year, the Morbid Angel and Necrovore influence is blatant from the off, but it’s how they develop it that counts.

This new version of the track tumbles through the same series of backwards riffs and sudden tempo swaps before it congeals into a new section of clean guitars towards the end. They’ve allowed a moment of breath in what was preciously a suffocating piece of music. And it works very well.

A minor note: it’s interesting to see that where the demo was a down tuned affair, the band have actually tuned back up to normal concert pitch here – the reverse of most death metal bands who just seem to drop those strings lower and lower over time.

It robs them of heaviness and bottom end, certainly, and at times adds a thrasier edge than I’d like it to, but it also serves to add a clarity that perhaps these songs might not have had at a lower pitch.

At first listen it was a jarring change, but it suits their sound perfectly. Two of the demo tracks are included on the cd version in addition to the 4 tracks that make up the EP proper if you want to compare and contrast for yourself.

Of the four songs here, it’s odd that “With Roots Below” is the one that was made public prior to the release date – it’s relatively throwaway compared to the other three, a pedestrian affair and one that feels like filler to be honest.

It seems timid particularly given it’s placing before impressive third track “Kimiya Ye El Molekhat”. Again, a higher than normal level of early MA worship is at work in places but it’s a brilliantly written piece of high intensity death metal.

Frenzied riffs all over the place, some excellent drumming (something I should mention is consistent throughout the record and is a joy to listen to) and a sense of insanity that’s the real deal. It’s on this track that the convergence of influence and individuality shines through. They’re not merely aping their influences, they’re perhaps trying to exorcise them.

The closing “The Hungry Darkness of Death” ends the set with perhaps the strongest moment of the bands own inner light shining through – an epic piece that begins at a slower pace with more eerie guitars, before the band twist and turn through the established frantic structures towards the end. Atmosphere is all over this tune, and it balances light and shade perfectly.

A summation of the bands that inspired them?

It’s undeniable that Ensnared are that for sure, and there’s hints of “Casus” era Watain and even Tiamat lurking in their alongside the aforementioned US titans.

But Ensnared have the potential here to transcend being homage that some of their peers don’t. These guys know what they’re doing. And again, indebted as they are to ye older gods, they’ve written at least three extremely strong and enjoyable songs here.

What this band do best here is manage to play with an urgency and violence, but do it in a way whereby they take their time with it rather than race to the finish line.

They know their craft well, and it’s clear they’ve a keen need to imbue their song writing with a higher sense of quality. They just have to develop a bit more of their own personality to really excel.

There’s work to be done yet, but this might be the beginning of something special. Well above average, if not quite stellar. Yet.

3.4/5 – Jamie Grimes ::: 05/09/13


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