Death Dealer Union – Initiation (Napalm)

Monday, 18th September 2023
Rating: 8.5/10

When you hear a band that settles into the ‘modern metal’ category, there are certain things you expect. Leave it to freshly minted Death Dealer Union to manage to subvert those expectations by bringing forth a sound that feels just as rooted in classic heavy metal as it is in more current metallic sounds. At the head of that slurry of influences is vocalist Elena Cataraga (Lena Scissorhands of Infected Rain), who brings her usual levels of charisma and talent to the varied playground of musicianship to unify an album that feels like a creative playground in the best of ways.

The strongest asset of Death Dealer Union is how they manage to create an album of unique cuts that avoid being a mere hodge-podge of ideas strung together. There’s bits of modern metal, melodic death, power, traditional heavy metal, and more poking through the seams, but it’s well-controlled. Therefore demonstrating a wealth of ideas that adds to their diversity. One of the lead-off singles, “The Integument” fires off ’80s metal guitar bravado in the best of ways, producing some energetic and fun riffing opportunities for Cataraga to both sing and scream over – it’s easy to label the track a standout anthem that’ll get your head bobbing without effort. “The Vow of Silence” feels more modern and heavy, working off of frantic grooves and melodies – highlighting a rather catchy chorus. Then on the more melodic end, you have the ballad-y “Love Me When I’m Ugly,” which switches between stronger grooves and more gentle segments led by Cataraga’s poignant vocals. Closing cut “Beyond Heaven” has a more cinematic and epic feeling to it, with chugging riffs and building atmosphere colliding into something that leaves a very positive final impression of what the new act can provide. What wraps everything together then? Swirling and energetic melodies, impressive vocals, and plenty of groove to sink into – one listen to “Back to Me” and you can easily see how the band is capable of pulling it all off with flair.

Death Dealer Union prove themselves as a force to be reckoned with on Initiation. More important than anything, it’s a fun and heavy listen that plays into several genres without losing any of its gusto or polish. It’s a fluid debut that should easily garner some deserved attention for those looking for something on the melodic side of things.

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