Purified in Blood - Reaper of Souls
Alveran Records
Thrash / Metalcore
10 songs (44:03)
Release year: 2006
Reviewed by Al

The road from being unsigned nobodies competing for a record contract, fan adoration and various other tasty treats to that of a world straddling metal powerhouse touring the world, rolling in money and fighting off hordes of crazed groupies can be a long, winding and arduous one. Many bands of course never make the initial leap from the first step to the second, the act of actually releasing a record, likely on an indie label and touring locally to support said record. Fewer still make further gains from there and it is this melting pot at the second step of the ladder where a band’s mettle is first tested. The band has a full album of recorded material they can proudly call their own and this material is then scrutinized by both critics and more importantly by the fans. The band has to sit back and take this scrutiny on board whether it be positive or negative and the results of this essential feedback and the band’s reaction is an essential platform from which a band can either dive headfirst off into obscurity or use as a springboard to consolidate and further their career. It is at this point that we join the tale of Norwegian metallers Purified in Blood.

PIB (no, I’m not lazy, I’m just strangely amused by the acronym) have had a long journey from the first to the second step on the ladder. Formed in 2003 they have toured incessantly for 3 years picking up two notable achievements along the way, namely an award in 2004 for ‘Best Unsigned Band’ and another in 2006 for ‘Best Live Act’ both in their native country. They signed to Alveran records and late last year released their debut album Reaper of Souls. So, is it any good? The short answer to that question is ‘quite’. Those of you with short attention spans, literacy problems or Attention Deficit Disorder can skip the rest and read the score. Those of you still interested feel free to read on.

PIB’s sound is difficult to pin down. They play a heady blend of metalcore, thrash and death metal. The guitar work is almost pure thrash however some of the drumming and the odd chugging breakdown riff falls squarely between metalcore and death metal. When working effectively their sound is a fast and brutal epitome of barely controlled chaos and it seems to capture some of the best aspects of the aforementioned genres. Tracks such as The Last Day and Imprisoned Freedom flow very well with blindingly fast riffing interspersed effectively with slower heavy breakdowns. There is however one big problem with this formula and that is simply that there is just not enough variance, especially on the first half of the album. A certain riff structure consisting of ‘chugchugchugchugchug – note – hammer on’ (yes, that is the technical description of it) is utterly overused. While you may argue that this is a typical thrash symptom I suggest that while thrash can be repetitive that repetition is usually of something interesting, this I’m afraid is not. This is most apparent on the first four songs on the album where the lack of any real silence or break between tracks results in the songs melding into one. If this was the intention it is actually quite effective, if it was not it exposes a glaring flaw in the band’s sound.

The vocals are supplied via two vocalists, one of which exhibits a screeching / growled death metal sound not dissimilar to Alexi of Children of Bodom’s approach albeit with less melody. The other vocalist slips easily into the metalcore bracket with his signature deep growled / shouted approach. One of these vocal styles is quite interesting and pulled off effectively while the other consists of the same dull as dishwater metalcore stylings used by way too many run of the mill cookie-cutter acts. Luckily it is the former vocalist who is slightly more present on this recording and thus the vocal department of the band ends up slightly above average overall. In my view however eschewing the metalcore vocals altogether would improve things further. I am quite confident in stating that most serious metal fans are plain bored with the metalcore approach due to over exposure and further to that it just seems a bit unnecessary on this release.

From all these positive and negative aspects rises one thing that deserves a specific honourable mention. Album closer Skulltwister is simply brilliant, throwing a milieu of fantastic riffs and drumming at the listener while ignoring any semblance of song structure and adding more hooks than you could shake a stick at. If the band took this on board and recorded a whole album of material this good I’d be busy slapping an album of the month sticker on it right now. Ironically at the album’s close the band finally seem to diverge slightly from their established template and the result is pure genius.

Overall this is a decent effort, it has its flaws and suffers terribly at the hands of repetition but as a few moments of inspiration and the closing track shows, there is real potential here. I don’t doubt that a band receiving a ‘Best Live Act’ award must be able to do the business on stage, now they just need to translate that success into a record. I’m placing these guys firmly in the ‘one to keep an eye on’ pile.

Killing Songs :
The Last Day and Skulltwister
Al quoted 68 / 100
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