Catching Warpath live a few months ago was a weird experience. It’s hard to say why. Probably because standing there watching them play, it all looked like a bit of a game. Death metal done precisely to script, almost demoralisingly so.
That’s not to say they’re not a worthy band. Far from it. Watching them simply begged the question of what else, apart from the usual death metal shopping list, they had to offer. In truth? Not much.
So at least it’s good and powerful death metal.
It’s a question that’s bothered me with Warpath for several years. Their ‘Gorefare’ demo was competent, confident, and yet lacking in that crucial x-factor – be it aggression, attitude, riffs, verve – which make for a lot of re-listening and a place in the hearts and minds.
Frustratingly, ‘Malevolent Reprisal’ shares the same fate.
It’s good death metal – but never once does it stray from the genre’s tightest and most restrictive confines.
If that’s what you’re into for forty minutes at a time, then it’s punishing and you’ll love it. I suspect however that people might prefer it in short bursts. In that case there are several genuine treats.
The best track is certainly ‘Point Blank Execution’. As direct and aggressive as its title suggests, it’s certainly the highlight of the band’s writing to date.
Catchy, fast and clever, after its initial flurry of grunts and battering, its got the kind of exceptionally groovy hook that’s impossible not to love. Not only that – the variety of riffs and beats within its four odd minutes are a display of real technical and songwriting confidence.
‘Enter My Lair’ too has a nasty, worming riff half way through it that somehow manages to sound sick in its own right. Like Cannibal Corpse’s ‘From Skin To Liquid’ it adds a dakrness and personality that the normal combination of music and vocals doesnt always have.
There’s a well done cover of Hatebreed’s ‘Tear It down’ to close out. Yet that’s not the only place where hardcore influence gets a look in. ‘The Red Mist’ certainly takes its main beat and general sound from that mindset. Again, it’s one of the more powerful tracks on here.
Even after such a competent and pounding display though, I’m still forcing myself to ask how necessary this album is to anyone’s collection. Objectively, Warpath are doing everything right. It’s just that it’s all the same. That, and that I don’t hear enough personality, enough vim, enough message in the vocals.
It would be unfair to write this off as sub standard. It isn’t. It’s powerfully recorded, tightly played (with a special prop to the highly imperssive rhythm guitar) and full of death metal spirit.
Yet even so, it remains stock.
Brutal death metal diehards will love it, and so perhaps that’s where it’s best recommended.
To other travellers it’s a solid release, but not one, I’d venture, that will be overly played. I just think it needs more creativity, and they’re not letting themselves because of a (possibly) misplaced adherence to genre tropes. They have the talent to move on.
2.9 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 06/03/11