Release Date: September 9, 2011
After seven years, Swedish progressive death metal horde, Cipher System is set to reveal its second full length effort. A long duration for a lesser band to pull off without losing impact. Fortuitously, the band’s debut release, Central Tunnel Eight, while clearly a sonic stepping stone, still stands as touchstone. Remaining relevant today as it did eight years ago.
This time around, the band has heightened its sense of atmosphere on almost every level with Communicate The Storms. Vocalist/growler Karl Obbel sounds like a man possessed, while bassist Henric Carlsson plays with groove and resonance. The album’s djent guitar rhythms are deftly handled by Johan Eskilsson and Andreas Allenmark, who also create some incredibly epic solo moments on this 46-minute disc. The auditory message is all pounded home by the precise yet unhinged drumming of Emil Frisk.
One of the band’s signature elements come at the hands of keyboardist Peter Engström who create melodic tapestries behind the wall of raging metal and the violent growling of Obbel. Elements of electronica are woven throughout the album for added intrigue.
Cipher System remains heavier than many of their contemporaries, without sacrificing melody. Both elements are quickly apparent on the album opener “7 Inch Cut”, which has a very grand and atmospheric feel, and contrasts the harsh vocals with clean group harmonies. This track picks up where the band’s debut record left off. There is a real Scar Symmetry feel here, specifically on the clean vocal renderings.
“Forget To Forgive” kicks off with a catchy and driving guitar riff, all backed by Engström’s massive sonic wall. Frisk keeps hammering away at his snare like his goal is to cave the devil’s skull open. More contrasting vocals on this one as well.
The album’s title cut was released in advance, and is a table setter for the entire disc. If you enjoy this track the entire album should appeal to you as a whole. The guitars are melodic and quite well done, with a hint of Meshuggah polyrhythms on the verses. The guitars drop out on the break leaving a chorus of clean vocals and the rhythm section and more texturing by Engström.
On “A Lesson Learned” there is a subtle layering effect, with guitar work progressing to new heights as the song moves along. I’ve heard it referred to as sounding like early Soilwork, and I’d agree with that assessment. Here we get one of the album’s few guitar solo moments.
“God’s Terminal” rolls out with an electronica intro which gives way to the caustic storm that follows. That electronic sort of fades into the background but never quite goes away. At times it seems to fit perfectly, while at others times it almost feels overdone. A trend which follows over into the intro to “End My Path”.
“Objections” has a dark and moody vibe to it. When Obbel comes in with his angry rasps he sounds almost like a prosecutor orating for the jury. In this case perhaps a jury of the damned. The guitar and vocals make this one of the catchiest and accessible choruses on the record.
Communicate The Storms closes out with arguably the record’s most hostile and pulverizing track, “The Failure Starts”. The song grabs you by the throat and squeezes relentlessly, then as you run out of breath it slows tempo allowing for a much needed breath. But it doesn’t last long. By the dying strains of the song you’re ready to fade out with it.
For those not yet familiar with Cipher System, the band will appeal to a broad range of extreme metal enthusiasts, including fans of acts like Periphery, Solution .45, Meshuggah, Scar Symmetry or early Soilwork and In Flames.
While Cipher System expands upon its debut release from 2003, it does not feel as fresh as that record did. Communicate The Storms is still a highly impressive offering of modern melodic death metal, but this feels more like a well played continuation of the first record, rather than sonic growth. And that’s okay. If Cipher System is only as good as its last record, then the band is winning the battle 2 – 0. A solid, and at times, inspired sophomore effort. Worth the investment.
Recommended tracks: “7 Inch Cut”, “Forget To Forgive”, “Objection”, “Communicate The Storms”