"Rat King"

By Thrash-head

Do not be fooled by the cover art that could have come straight off of a modern metalcore/deathcore t-shirt. This group has their style rooted firmly in traditional European death metal stylings.

While so far I think "Reflections" was a slightly better outing for the group, this disc is shaping up to be an incredibly good disc in my eyes. Like a great many Polish death metal bands (even though this band is Swedish) such as Decapitated and Crionics, As You Drown can have a very sinister and brutal style, but on the slower, meatier parts is where they tend to really shine. They just hunker down and get really sinister and ride that low string for all it's worth. There's an occasional breakdown-ey part that comes along from time to time, but if we're willing to let Vader and Aborted slide on it, then it shouldn't be called into question here either. The music never really gets into the typical death metal blastbeats and fast picking, and there are a lot of times where when listening to this disc you really wish they would go balls-out.

Musicianship-wise, the band is comprised of fantastic, amazing musicians that don't show off if it could be a disservice to the music. A band is sometimes said though, to only be as good as its drummer, and here is where I think the most room for improvement lies. Martin Latvala is solid on this disc if not seemingly a little stayed...I would've liked to have heard some more blasting, more intricate fills, or just anything to make it a little more interesting. If anything, his lack of intricacy maybe lends the music a slightly more old school quality, but that only comes to mind admittedly when I really push myself to complement his style. The guitar-riffing is also suitably more rooted in tradition, sometimes for better or for worse, but it IS admittedly a little refreshing to hear a band with more modern engineering/mixing values tackle a death metal style sans hardcore dancing and sweep arpeggios. As for the vocals, at first they wore me a bit thin with their incredible lack of distinguishing characteristics, but now upon the 5th listen to this disc I'm feeling that no one else could really fit the music this's a bit more diaphragm and less throat than a lot of modern death growlers, maybe along the lines of Suffocation's Frank Mullen if you need a good reference point.

All in all, this is just a flat-out, no-flash, solid death metal release, and I love it for that. I'm just a little concerned with whether the band will have staying power given their sound relies on methods that would be considered old school and tired by today's standards. Add some blast beats and fills the next time around guys...