Assailant - Nemesis Within
Aggressive Heavy Metal
11 songs (48:26)
Release year: 2006
Assailant, Dockyard 1
Reviewed by Ken
Surprise of the month

Biohazard’s Billy Graziadei once described Umeå, Sweden as the “hardcore capital of Europe,” and I can’t disagree. I first came to know that city—the largest in northern Sweden—through hardcore bands such as Refused, Final Exit, Purusam, a very awesome metal/hardcore band, and the amazing all-girl metal/hardcore band Doughnuts (I never quite understood their name, however). The hardcore scene—which was big on vegan straightedge—well before idiotic Americans popularized that lifestyle with a gang mentality—of Umeå was definitely the most diverse in all of Europe. Many of the hardcore bands were doing the metalcore thing before it was even considered a genre, but they did it with actual musical talent, not paint-by-numbers guides and Metal Guitar for Dummies. The riffs were genuine, the solos—yes, solos!—were soulful and good; there was no screamo-verse-cleanly-sung-chorus template that every band had to—or wanted to—follow; the songs had that special quality that so many metalcore bands lack today: integrity.

Graziadei was also quoted as saying about Umeå: “There is an honesty in the music here that is known in the whole world. They know what they want.” I’m not sure how many of your average music fans know of Umeå, Sweden, but his statement is no less accurate. Most bands that come out of Umeå, and all of Sweden for that matter, possess something that can only be described as pure, honest. And that distinction goes beyond just hardcore bands.

Indeed, Umeå has no shortage of metal bands. Nocturnal Rites, Persuader, Woods Of Infinity, Naglfar, Meshuggah, and now Assailant, to name a few. Royal blood courses through the heart of Assailant with founding member and guitarist Oskar Norberg being the brother of Emil, Persuader/Savage Circus guitarist, and Nils Norberg, Nocturnal Rites guitarist. Assailant, however, play a more aggressive form of heavy metal than either of Oskar’s brothers’ respective bands. Though touching upon many areas of metal—power metal, progressive metal, thrash—Assailant are rooted firmly in balls-to-the-wall heavy metal! A twin-axe attack, solid bass work, double-bass aplenty, and an outstanding vocal performance by Peder Sundqvist—who sounds like a cross between Ville Laihiala (Sentenced) and—calm it!—David Draiman (Disturbed) with the power and range of Jens Carlsson (Persuader).

The band formed in 2004 as Ecliptica, releasing one demo. A few personnel changes and a name change saw the band release another demo in 2005, and now this, their full-length debut, Nemesis Within. The album starts off with a heavy one-two combination of “Lies” and “Buried Alive,” both excellent, crushing tracks; the former showcasing Sundqvist’s exceptional range and some Blind Guardian-like leads, with the latter at times sounding like a long-lost, mid-era Sentenced song. The album takes a dynamic shift with “Edge Of Forever,” an almost gothic metal tune, mid-paced with prominent keyboard work—which oddly enough reminds me of Europe’s “The Final Countdown.” “Downward Spiral” follows suit. It’s a heavy groover with an outstanding chorus and a downright goose bump-inducing vocal exhibition by Sundqvist.

The album dips a bit with “Until The End.” It’s not a bad song, but it comes and goes without really digging its hooks in too deep. Things pick up with “Eternal,” a very good, fist-pumping song with a nice, catchy-but-subtle chorus. “Mental State” has some killer parts, but it gets a little too heavy for its own good. Sundqvist pulls off some heavier vocals, even semi-decent death metal-like growls at times, but it just doesn’t fit with the music; it manages to cancel out the good parts of the song as they’re sandwiched in between these heavier parts. “Shattered” almost suffers from the same, but the heavier vocal parts are much shorter, giving breathing room to the relentless groove and allowing the superb chorus to overshadow—though a few breakdown growls almost ruin things. If any track could be considered a ballad it would be “Tomorrow”—though that’s a stretch. The song is simply the mellowest on the album with slower verses, cleaner vocals, and more of those Blind Guardian-like leads, but it does pick up the heaviness here and there. “Vanity Unfolds,” featuring guest leads from Emil and Nils Norberg, and “My Awakening” close the show in good, but not amazing, fashion; not quite attaining the level of greatness of the first few songs.

For a band that has been around for only two years, Assailant have pulled off quite a respectable metal album. Nemesis Within, while not consistently amazing, does manage to stay at least very good through its almost hour-long journey; never quite dipping into the negative. With the Norberg heritage seeping into the framework of this album one can only expect great things in the future, but even with that endorsement there are five other very talented musicians playing a key role in this band, namely Peder Sundqvsist and his uniquely pleasing, yet contrastingly acidic and rough, vocals. The vocals give this band the character aspect needed to set them apart from their peers. I have full confidence that a sophomore release—if there is to be one—will prove to be a virtual masterpiece if the band continues down the path they’re currently on. As it stands, Nemesis Within is one excellent debut despite its minor flaws.

AUDIO: Lies, Buried Alive, Tomorrow, Vanity Unfolding (All low quality clips) and MySpace

Note: In time these links will likely becoming outdated.

Killing Songs :
Lies, Buried Alive, Downward Spiral and Eternal
Ken quoted 80 / 100
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