About once a year I come across a demo or a new band that actually piques my interest. It doesn’t happen a lot because I’m pretty set in my ways musically, so anything new has to hit all the right notes to worm its way into my heart, and THE SURGE has certainly made an effort to do just that.
What can I say? 99% of the time, when I throw a random demo on, I think, “Ehh, it’s like Band X and/or Band Y, but not as good.” However, on this occasion, the thought process went like, “Huh, this feels a bit like INSOMNIUM‘s vocals, and a bit of their rhythm, meets the good quality guitarwork of the lost IN FLAMES of yore.” If you know me, you know I’ve become saddened by IN FLAMES of late, so anything that brings back that nostalgia of the “Clayman” (1999) and “Come Clarity” (2006) eras is bound to please me.
So what do you need to know about these guys? This project was started by Johan Enbom (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Ludwig Thurfjell (drums), who have collaborated on musical projects of various incarnations since their teenage years. By 2014, they had Emil Rudegran (guitar) and Tobias Jonsson (bass) on board as well, and their first song, “For as the Gods,” was released in 2014. Now they felt it was time to bridge the gap and release a promotional album.
The album starts out with “Author of Damnation,” and already at 00:45 you can hear the guitar technique that reminds me so strongly of old-school IN FLAMES. As well, the vocals have a certain Niilo Sevänen flavor to them, which I appreciate, though I think these growls are more diverse, or maybe dynamic is the word I’m looking for. There’s good energy throughout, and I like the riff – it stands out and blends in exactly when it needs to. There’s a nice little solo towards then end as well, and the song fades out on another guitar line.
The second track, “Shallow Waters,” kicks off by demonstrating their positive, high energy. The beat gets a bit thrashy without getting unappealing to someone who dislikes thrash (think “Take this Life” by IN FLAMES when comparing that near-thrash-but-not-quite vibe). This just feels so Gothenburg, so Swedish, and in my books, that’s a really good thing. Another chill solo is present in this track, and is interestingly (and quite uncommonly, I’d say) the slowest part of the song. Strong vocals and guitarwork again follow. “Icons” continues the quality, with an entirely different beat to its predecessor, slowed down, with a bit of a marching beat interspersed here and there. As well, this is the first track to throw some gritty-yet-clean vocals into the mix, surprisingly also done by Johan Enbom, and this track has a more metalcore vibe than Gothenburg, if we’re splitting hairs.
“Among the Ruins” is a personal highlight, though it’s no secret that I really love Robert Stjärnström‘s (MACHINAE SUPREMACY) voice, and the way they’ve worked his parts into the music and blended it with the other vocals… well, it really works for me. I wouldn’t have guessed that Stjärnström‘s vocal style would work this well in a melodic death metal context, so color me positively surprised! As well, I like the music in this one a lot, with some of my favorite guitar lines, great drumming, and strong rhythm. This is a cool example of what creative minds just having a beer and chatting can accomplish.
The band’s ‘sound’ has been solidified by “The Enigma,” as you can get a feel for the type of beats they like to work with and the way the vocals are working. This song is very particularly reminiscent of INSOMNIUM, though I can’t place if there’s one specific song that it reminds me of (I’ve never been good at remembering their song names). I like the layering of the vocals a lot in the chorus here, as well as how the speed builds up in the chorus.
The solid music continues in “Creator/Destroyer,” and I enjoy the heavy drums that accompany the solo. It makes me wonder if I can think of another drum-heavy guitar solo, and if not, this is kind of cool. “Dreams Asleep” starts off slow with almost IRON MAIDEN-esque guitar lines, but kicks off back into the Gothenburg style. The chorus again sounds a bit IN FLAMES-like, perhaps from the “A Sense of Purpose” (2008) -era or a bit earlier. Some deeper vocals follow the chorus, and my appreciation for Enbom‘s singing only grows. The song ends on a fade-out with the vocals still going.
Finally, the album closes out with the title track, and I immediately like the finality of the song’s feeling. Daniel Holmgren does guest vocals on this track as well, which stick out a bit and it’s perhaps the only thing on this album I’m not convinced of, as the melodic death metal and metalcore clash just slightly here. However, I still enjoy the track on the whole (it’s Holmgren‘s personal vocal style that isn’t my favorite, not the song itself), and ultimately, I think the album ends on a high note.
On the whole, I don’t think this album in any way reinvents the wheel; however, the nostalgia value of a bunch of sounds that I strongly enjoy, very cleverly blended together in unique ways, is more than enough to please. As a promotional album to show what could be possible in the future, I certainly like what’s going on here and would be happy to see more in the future. Also, if IN FLAMES decide that they want to start writing good music again, I know who I’ll recommend them to get in touch with.
Written by Bear Wiseman
- Author of Damnation
- Shallow Waters
- Among the Ruins (ft. Robert Stjärnström)
- The Enigma
- Dreams Asleep
- The End Goes On
Johan Blom – vocals, guitars
Ludwig Thurfjell – drums
Emil Rudegran – guitars
Tobias Jonsson – bass
Robert Stjärnström – additional vocals
Daniel Holmgren – additional vocals
Interview Phantom Elite – “It’s always good to share that feeling that none of us is alone in hard times”