Reading Absolute Design's credits, it would be easy to assume that the 2007 debut release by Engel contains either death metal or black metal (or perhaps a combination of the two). Founded by guitarist Niclas Engelin (who was with In Flames in the late '90s), this Swedish band also includes drummer Daniel "Mojjo" Moilanen, formerly of Lord Belial; on top of that, Engel's first official full-length album was produced by Anders Fridén (known for his work as In Flames' lead singer) and Daniel Bergstrand (who has produced In Flames). So with those In Flames and Lord Belial associations, is there any reason one wouldn't expect to hear some Nordic death metal or Nordic black metal on Absolute Design? But Absolute Design is neither black metal nor death metal; in fact, it's alternative metal with some metalcore-ish moves at times. Engel don't sound anything like In Flames or Lord Belial -- actually, what this band sounds like is a heavier, more intense and metalcore-friendly version of Staind. Engel definitely rock much harder and more intensely than Staind, but they are darkly melodic in a way that does bring to mind Staind's moodiness. The metalcore factor, meanwhile, comes into play mainly because of Mangan Klavborn's lead vocals; although there are more clean vocals than extreme vocals on this 46-minute CD, Klavborn gets in his share of harsh, metalcore-type screaming. But unlike the straight-ahead metalcore albums that are viciously punishing from start to finish, Absolute Design is decidedly melodic and gives the listener a lot more breathing room than a straight-ahead metalcore album would. Staind fans might disagree with the Staind/Engel comparison because Engel are much louder and harsher, but melodically, there is clearly a parallel. Absolute Design falls short of mind-blowing, although it is a decent outing that manages to achieve a healthy balance of nuance and alt-metal intensity.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson