Company: Dental Records Release: 2006 Reviewer: Etiam Genre: Traditional
Does tend to languish in its songwriting, despite the zest of its performance
Although Hearse features Johan Liiva (ex-Arch Enemy) on vocals, the trio's latest, 'In These Veins', shares little with Liiva's work on 'Stigmata' or other albums released during the formative years of Swedish melodic death. Instead, Hearse's take on metal is much more devil-may-care, with two fistfuls of pentatonic blues soloing, straightforward drumming with plenty of cymbal splashes, and of course, Liiva to lead the way down "Route 66", upon which the band evidently gets its kicks.
For those who know Liiva only from Arch Enemy, it's worth noting off the bat that he is a much more accomplished growler today. Rather than the half-grunt, half-bellow from the old days, Liiva employs a rugged growl that is as expressive and dynamic as his old style without as many of the polarizing side effects. He scatters in some significantly different accents throughout the album, such as whispers or shouts, but aside from the jarring 'Intoxication', these are easily taken in stride.
Were it not for Liiva's past associations, the first thoughts on 'In These Veins' would undoubtedly concern guitarist Mattias Ljung, whose strong voicings are at the center of Hearse's rock 'n' roll spirit. As the sole guitarist in the trio, Ljung is particularly valuable for how well he differentiates his driving rhythm riffing from his melodic, vintage approach to soloing. Both are competently handled, giving 'In These Veins' a strongly guitar-centric nature without fetishizing the instrument's extremes, as metal often tends to do.
However, 'In These Veins' does tend to languish in its songwriting, despite the zest of its performance, and is memorable more for its repetitiveness than its superior quality. Choruses tend to be simplistic and to reappear excessively, as do their respective bridges, and riffs that were fun for a few repetitions begin to wear. Still, Hearse is altogether a respectable vehicle for Liiva, post Arch Enemy, and a worthy showcase of his bandmates' significant talents. Paying homage to The Crown's piss-and-vinegar by way of I's (i.e. Abbath's) strutting rock, Hearse are a jukebox pick that'll do well enough for any bar-room brawl.
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