Engulfed By the Swarm

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By all accounts, Philadelphia's brilliantly named Polterchrist toiled in obscurity for nearly a decade before recording this, their debut album, and that may well explain the wide range of influences brought into play from one track to another. For the most part, the band is equal parts technical and savage death, verging on black metal (see the nearly atonal circular stomach-churning riffs of "The Sun Will Burn Black," the title track, and "The Battle") that doesn't fall too far from the genre's '90s Northeast tree branches (think Suffocation, Pyrexia, etc.). But Polterchrist's songwriting isn't as complex, and is also subject to greater tinkering with this basic formula. Experiments such as the clean, processed vocals (reminiscent of post-industrialists Fear Factory) that occasionally crop up in the likes of "Alone" and "Lies... Pain... Hate," or the trip-hop-styled electronics preceding the aptly named "The Art of Ferocity." All that is fine and good, but it's when the band's more ancient debts to the thrashy, melodic death metal of the late '80s (Sepultura, Death, etc.) peek over the horizon that things get really interesting. Both the excellent "Terminal" and the masterful album highlight "Here We Lie" qualify for this distinction, and their dense harmonies arguably display Polterchrist's greatest strengths. Brought together under one roof as they are, the above discrepancies would sometimes help to diversify and improve an album's chances; but in Engulfed By the Swarm's case, the sense of duality is a little too severe. One can't help but wish that Polterchrist had made a choice about what direction to pursue and stuck with it from start to finish. As it stands, there's enough promise here to build upon -- let's just hope the band moves a little faster coming up with album number two.

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