We are greeted by some ’80s video game esque sound effects and otherwise orchestrated melodies, reminiscent of the chiptune scene, all bleeding seamlessly into harmonized, electric lead guitar. From there, we enter a brutal, chugging riff, and we’re off to the races. The dual lead guitars happening over the top of this section are very impressive, gradually harmonizing and increasing in speed until the inevitable, classic melodic death metal verse riff comes crashing in, topped with vocalist, Steven Wynn’s, thunderous growls. At last, the primary elements of this band have converged and we’re well on our way into the opening track, “Eye of the Archdemon”.

Such is the beginning of Undrask‘s long-awaited third album, God Emperor, a self-released masterpiece co-produced by Jamie King (producer on select albums by Between the Buried and Me, Abiotic, Through the Eyes of the Dead and more). God Emperor arrives six years after Undrask’s prevous release, Battle Through Time, and just when we thought all hope was lost, these fine gentlemen have returned with another impressive release of melodic death metal anthems akin to the works of Children of Bodom, Amon Amarth, Scar Symmetry, Soilwork, and many more.

A mere 2 minutes and 57 seconds into the opening track on this album, and I can tell you that God Emperor is already Undrask’s most technically advanced, and overall diverse musical release to date. Such is evident in the personnel listed in the liner notes, important details we will touch on later in this review.

Hitting the three-minute mark of “Eye of the Archdemon”, if you weren’t already impressed by the lead guitar on this record, you will be by this point. The main solo in this opening track absolutely rips and the madness is only just beginning. Clearly, Undrask know how to open a record. The harmonized outro guitar riff of this song is so epic, but for extra icing on the cake, Undrask chose to incorporate a little bit of “brass” in this section. Again, we’ll touch on God Emperor‘s added personnel in a few paragraphs.

The 2nd song, “Spoils of War” has a demonic folk metal vibe to it, akin to Eluveitie’s older material fused with the ideas presented on Wintersun’s Time I album. The choir-esque group vocals backing up the chorus in this song, combined with the Scandinavian style, perpetual guitar melody happening throughout the more folky sections of the song, give “Spoils of War” such a unique overall tone compared to the previous track. Already, the diversity on this album is blaringly loudly in the listener’s ears.

Track 3, “The Tempering” gives me a much more Nordic vibe, given its driving snare (classic Amon Amarth style downbeat), guitar melody-driven passages, and punishingly low and percussive vocals.

Track 4, “We Are Longhammer”, most likely the flagship song of the record to come, has a beautiful clean guitar intro, completely separating it from the stylistic changes already heard on this album. From there, this song just has “popular single” written all over it. The “mob chants” in the chorus bring the song’s point crashing home, “Hail! Hail! Longhammer!” It’s impossible not to sing along. And yes, this song also carries yet another blisteringly fast, yet ultra melodic and hooky guitar solo. This one will be stuck in my head for weeks.

Track 5, “The Mountain” starts off with Gregorian chant style vocals, coupled with possibly a trombone, or another subtle brass instrument for extra flavor. Once again, Undrask’s very unique sound is punching through on this one. It’s easy to compare the band to Amon Amarth during maybe half a riff, and then immediately hear guitar and vocal elements reminiscent of the aforementioned Eluveitie or Children of Bodom. It’s so nice to hear a band utilizing tactics established by so many of my favorite bands, and compounding said tactics, all to craft a truly unique style all Undrask’s own.

Now about halfway through the record, the song “Queen” immediately kicks into high gear with harmonized tremolo riffing. I believe this is the first time on the album we hear a bold, tremolo picked intro like this, just driving home an unmistakably evil presence within the song’s concept. The vocals on this song are also exceptionally high pitched and demonic compared to other tracks, as the song features Morgan Riley from Blackwater Drowning providing harsh vocals opposite Undrask’s Steven Wynn. Without fear of being castrated for saying this, I almost want to say parts of “Queen” have an old school Cradle of Filth vibe about them, based on the shrill, raspy vocal passages and eerie guitar riffs and melodies.

While all the songs on God Emperor have a solid flow when played in tracklist order, each song definitely has standalone qualities as well. “Queen” is no exception, as it is a dark, symphonic abyss of chaos and despair. It’s also worth mentioning that you really get your bang for your buck with God Emperor as 8 of its 11 tracks range from 5 to 10 minutes in length!

And just when we didn’t think things would get any scarier, track 7, “The Thing in the Pit” (aptly named) is introduced via thunderous, tribal toms, an eerie bass line, and some evil, sliding chords calling back to the previous songs darker, symphonic elements. This is the “The Thing That Should Not Be” of this album. If Undrask had the vast audience they truly deserve, this song would be an instant, evil classic, demanded by fans longing for Undrask’s heavier side.

Track 8, “The Climb” has such a catchy main riff. This riff has a beautiful arrangement of cascading single notes (harmonized in most cases of course) I just can’t get enough of. The song almost has a proggy vibe during the intro, due to said main riff’s structure, but most of this track plays to its title, and is a steady climb via driving snare (downbeat again) sections, moving the listener into lead guitar heaven and a beautiful, perfectly sloped fadeout.

Track 9, “Collectors” has some serious groove. If Undrask ever intended to touch on groove metal on this album, “Collectors” is definitely the song in which this happens, and it does so in spades. There is a lot of choppy chugging happening during this song on the guitars and drums as well, with lots of empty space filled out by Undrask’s temporary brass instrument section. Sure, there are plenty of melodies and harmonies to tickle your brain during this song as usual, but for those of you looking for something heavier, chuggy, and choppy, “Collectors” is your jam.

Track 10, “Heart of the Abyss”! I’ve really been looking forward to hearing this one, since Jeff Loomis (Nevermore, Arch Enemy) threw down a guest guitar solo on it! Continuing the vibes cast by “Collectors”, “Heart of the Abyss” is another song with some serious grooves happening, especially with the chugging in the intro underneath the soaring lead guitar overlays. This is also another song with borderline progressive tendencies due to the structure of the verse riff, almost harkening back to the ideas set forth in the main riff of “The Climb” a few songs back. Another thing I really love about “Heart of the Abyss”, is the drummer’s use of the snare rim during a rather ambient, atmospheric buildup of various lead guitar elements. This was a pretty gutsy, jazzy move on the drummer’s part considering the nature of this buildup. It gives the section such a ghostly sound and I love everything going on here. Obviously, Jeff Loomis’s solo is insane, but to be honest, so are all the other guitar solos on this record played by Undrask’s own Erik Collier, so while most bands would call a guest spot by Jeff Loomis a major highlight of the album, I actually thought Jeff’s solo just fit in perfectly with all the other ripping leads on God Emperor, and if I hadn’t read Jeff’s name in the liner notes, I might’ve thought it was Erik playing the part.

And finally, the title track, “God Emperor”, finishes up this beautiful album with a pounding, percussive intro highlighting tribal sounding toms, and fierce gutturals- vocal lines that will no doubt cue crowd participation at future shows. At over 9 minutes long, “God Emperor” is the perfect way to end an already stellar album. Overall, the song has a very triumphant sound to it, and brings a true resolution to this outstanding musical release – along with some GORGEOUS double bass performed by Michal Aftyka.

For those who haven’t listened to this yet, I feel I’ve already spoiled too much of this album’s plentiful surprises. So, if you love melodic death metal, but you’re looking for something new and exciting to stand out in a sea of similar MDM bands out there, get yourself some UNDRASK from Greensboro, North Carolina.

Additional information from Undrask on God Emperor per their Bandcamp page:

Follow our hero as he battles archdemons, a mad queen, and eldritch abominations all while contending with the growing power within threatening to consume his very soul.

The Longhammer is coming…


released April 21, 2023

Undrask is:

Erik Collier – Lead Guitar
Darryl DeWitt – Rhythm Guitar and Backing Vocals
Daniel McCoy – Bass Guitar
Aaron Schimmel – Drums and Percussion
Steve Wynn – Lead Vocals

Produced by Undrask and Jamie King

Engineering, Mixing, and Mastering by Jamie King at the Basement Recording

Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar, Drum, and Vocal Recording by Jamie King at the Basement Recording

Bass Recording at Papyrus Studios

Additional Vocals by Chris Hathcock

Instrumental Arrangements and Score by Chris Hathcock

Backing Instruments
Will Jung – Trumpet
Dr. Nick Kenney and Dr. Jordan Redd – French Horn
Matt Parunak – Trombone and Tuba
Nathaniel Wolkstein – Strings on The Thing in the Pit
Michal Aftyka – Double Bass on God Emperor

Artwork by Chris Rallis

Music by Erik Collier, Darryl DeWitt, and Aaron Schimmel

Lyrics by Erik Collier, Darryl DeWitt, Daniel McCoy, Aaron Schimmel, and Steve Wynn

Undrask thanks:
Kim, Abbie, and Amanda for putting up with our shit
Vincent, Rosie, Beau, and Grace for delaying this album a year or three
Justin Reich for turning our ridiculous ideas into badass videos
All of the incredible talent listed above that brought this album to life

Copyright 2023 Undrask


all rights reserved


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