After Earth – The Rarity of Reason (Independent)

Monday, 28th August 2023
Rating: 8.5 / 10

Melodic death metal is what paved the path to underground metal for this scribe. It goes without saying that this particular sub genre is one of deep personal importance. There have been ups and downs, of course, and thankfully, the last few years have displayed a sort of resurgence. Especially Majesties, who earlier this year tapped into the raw early Swedish sound with a freshness that’s nearly nonexistent. There was also the later, more modern sound, to which some relished and others lamented, with the infusion of keyboards and other varying influences. A difficult tightrope to walk that few these days truly navigate with grace, and like the explosion of the Gothenburg sound in the early 90s, the good stuff can come straight out of nowhere. Say hello to the sudden emergence of After Earth.

Hailing from Sweden, the band debuted in 2020 with an EP titled Before it Awakes, of which was a bit undercooked with the guitars largely buried in the mix, though there were fragments of potential. Fast forward to now, and the band’s debut album The Rarity of Reason, showcasing a drastically positive push forward. It’s almost inconceivable that this is the same band, but in a lot of ways, it isn’t. You see, the After Earth lost both guitarists very close to recording time for said album. This resulted in drummer Anton Vehkaperä recording most of the guitar parts, along with Christoffer Nilsson providing some of the leads, and bassist Olof Öman chipping in with the acoustic pieces and a few other bits. This would have crippled many bands, but what resulted from their sheer determination is a solid guitar-driven melodic death record coming out the other side.

In Flames Reroute to Remain vibes are almost instantaneous on the title track, beginning with a synth opener that may remind one of “Cloud Connected.” Alluring harmonies and big riffs are the powertrain of this machine, as it rumbles along with a catchy pointedness that’s difficult to resist. Emitting similar vibes are “Prometheus” and “Undermine My Suffocation,” boasting buckets of melodies to soak in, which could have fooled one into thinking this came straight out of 1999. Dark Tranquillity vibes-a-plenty are present in “Through Hidden Space,” with a hair of early Killswitch Engage in some sections near the end. Yes, there’s a smidgeon of the metalcore influence that permeated a portion of the melodic death metal scene in the 2000s, but it’s brief, and certainly shouldn’t dissuade those not into that sort of approach.

A few tracks, such as “Human Slave Machine,” rely on start/stop riffs that work well enough as a bridge, but occasionally are utilized more than necessary. On the other hand, “Anguish to Dust” slows proceedings down, but still maintains the right key ingredients, brewing a more subdued slice of melodeath. Closer “I Am What Remains” builds with light chants and a grandiose keyboard intro, transitioning into a blazing lead, bringing a Night in Gales-esque heaviness. Emotive soloing and acoustics guide the track and the album towards the finish, before ending in one last flurry of aggression. Vocalist Marcus Rydstedt’s guttural growl and throaty screams are a notable standout element of After Earth, delivering an especially inspired performance. The production equally need not be ignored, with all sounds in perfect harmony, capturing that classic Swedish sound. The legendary Fredrik Nordström of Studio Fredman absolutely deserves a huge shout for performing the mastering duties, whose fingerprints are all over the robust atmosphere that gives The Rarity of Reason the exact sound profile required.

After Earth emerges to transport one back in time with an immensely satisfying effort that fans of that middle era of the melodic death metal boom can’t get enough of. Those looking for a load of variety and innovation won’t find it in droves, but that’s more than made up for in finely tuned execution and a high level of songwriting. There are a few tracks that very well would have been bonafide classics if made back in the style’s heyday, and the album as a whole is a crisp homage that also boasts an uncommon compositional instinct. The Rarity of Reason is one of the best melodic death offerings thus far in 2023 that will bring back old memories and hopefully help form new ones.

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