Greensboro, North Carolina is harboring a melodic death metal powerhouse and no one seems to know it. I first wrote about Undrask back in September of 2015. Luckily, they remembered me and gave me a shout the other day, because I had no idea they were about to drop a new album. Their debut LP, Battle Through Time assaults the world on January 27. Just a few seconds into the first track, “No Graves for the Dead”, I was sold. If you’re looking for classic melodic death with catchy riffs, amazing lead work, textbook “in the pocket” vocals for the genre and a rhythm section that knows how to tie the whole package together, this is an album you NEED in your collection.
Many albums in this category have bland tracks here and there. I can say with absolute confidence that Battle Through Time is not one of them. Undrask knows how to write everlasting riff hooks into their music, catering to Iron Maiden fans, thirsty for upbeat harmonies, while never deviating from their overall aggressive sound. The lead guitars flood the songs with all the classically influenced “pretty” overlays and ripping solos you’d expect, while the rhythm guitars, bass, drums, along with Steve Wynn’s vocals (a harsh range ideal for melodic death) keep the lower, driven, fist pumping part of the band’s personality, relentless and in full swing for the entire album.
Undrask credits Amon Amarth, Children of Bodom, Kalmah, In Flames, Scar Symmetry, Dream Theater and Symphony X as being their major influences. While I can certainly hear aspects of all of the aforementioned artists in these songs, I also hear a ton of Iron Maiden influence in the majority of the tasty guitar leads and harmonies. Add the lead guitar work from the Somewhere in Time or Seventh Son of a Seventh Son era, mixed with the epic unmistakable “RPG” sound of Pittsburgh’s Dethehem, and you almost have the whole musical identity of Undrask locked down. Then again, this isn’t to say they don’t have “their own sound”. Every band has an unmistakable signature, you just have to be willing to seek it out. To me, Undrask’s signature is in the guitar layering of Darryl Dewitt (rhythm) and Erik Collier (lead), mixed with Steve Wynn’s impressive vocal range. Each “mood” is expressed perfectly throughout the songs by these three elements. While this album is littered with guitar harmonies, many lower octave sections or heavy chord progressions are present to keep the lead work in check. Nothing ever seems “too pretty” or “too textbook” for the genre, because of this guitar dynamic. This type of “distance” between individual notes in the more driving riffs, gives off more of a ballsy “’80s video game vibe”, as opposed to a straight “castle metal” theme.
Songs like “Final Right” showcase the band’s heavier tones and peak lead guitar work. Vick commented on a “djent” sounding section in this track similar to Within the Ruins. I didn’t exactly hear it that way, but you might. The final (title) track, “Battle Through Time”, leads off with the fist pumping action I was referring to earlier. The main riff in this song makes me think of Amon Amarth more than any other section on the record. If Johan Hegg did guest vocals on this track, your journey back to Viking times would be complete. On the other hand, the slower more “emotional” leads on most of the songs (including the title track) have an uncanny personality about them.
Collier shines from the first note to the last on this album and that’s a huge part of the reason Undrask sticks out from the pack. My personal favorite on this album is the 4th track, entitled, “Black Ocean”. The opening riff in the higher register will catch your ear immediately. From there, it’s just nonstop mid-paced headbanging action in 3/4 time for the majority (many interesting guitar dynamics throughout). There’s a classic drum pick up for the solo, followed by a rather progressive, but driving and heavy riff to bring it back to the main theme of the song (here’s where the Dream Theater comes out a little bit).
For my final thoughts, I’d like to simply say that Undrask needs to get out more and showcase themselves. They certainly deserve more than 729 “likes” on Facebook and I’m also going to work hard to bring them to Buffalo in the near future. I’m happy to pompously speak on behalf of the Buffalo metal scene and say, “We NEED Undrask!” Below, I’m going to leave a link to their video for “Conscripted”, taken from Battle Through Time. Give it a listen and if you like what you hear, give them a “like” on Facebook, follow all their pages and check out Battle Through Time when it drops later next month! Thanks for reading, guys!
Steve Wynn – Vocals
Darryl Dewitt – Rhythm guitar
Erik Collier – Lead guitar
Aaron Schimmel – Drums
Daniel McCoy – Bass guitar