11/30/2007 - Review by: EtiamSatariel - Hydra - 2005 - Regain Records
With the flood of bands still treading water in the melodic death metal scene today it is no surprise that good bands are continually overlooked, but one still wonders why Satariel had to draw the short straw. The production of 'Hydra' is balanced (minus the harsh hi-hat), the band's musicianship of high caliber, and the vocals professionally diverse, spanning clean, blackened, and growled. Satariel do admittedly follow the harsh verse/clean chorus formula institutionalized by their predecessors in the Swedish field, but the appropriately titled 'Hydra' draws on enough disparate genre elements to remain consistently appealing. Of course, manifold genres are far from the only ingredients for success; it takes keen songwriting to whisk them cleanly together. Fortunately, this is a tool Satariel wield with skill, and throughout 'Hydra' they base their appeal on familiar sensibilities and then add in a dash of original twists as a final garnish.
It seems that Satariel's primary shortcoming is nothing more than a case of improper marketing, which promotes them as 'melodic black/death'. Aside from the occasional rasp to Pär's harsh vocals, the 'black' aspect of their genre tag is a total misnomer. Anyone expecting black metal of any sort, symphonic, melodic or otherwise, will no doubt come away from 'Hydra' disappointed by its extensive use of clean, gothic-styled vocals and 'melodeath' polish. Too, on the other hand, fans looking for that more consistent gothic experience will balk at the aggressive riffing and vocals that belie Pär's and Mikael's involvement in Torchbearer.
Otherwise, while still an overall success 'Hydra's patchwork of styles does falter a time or two. The atmospheric poise opening 'Vengeance is Hers' grates with the explicit, childish lyrics, and 'Scattering The Timeweb' indulges a little too lengthily in its own gloominess. Nevertheless, despite these few flaws Satariel's efforts pay off when the headbanging hooks of 'Nihil Juggernaut' blend into subtle pop cadences of 'No God Loves' and the potential derailment of 'Vengeance Is Hers' is set aright by the brutal, nearly two-stepping groove of 'For Galaxies To Crash'.
Satariel do walk a fine line between fanbases that rarely coincide, but perhaps by their next full-length (presumably following 2006's EP 'Chifra') the band will have instilled in their audience a clearer sense of their identity. Judging by 'Hydra's quality and the talents of the members, this is a feasible goal. And by that time, maybe they'll be confident enough to leave Messiah well enough alone.
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