Drakkar – Diabolical Empathy (Dooweet Agency)Tuesday, 21st November 2017
Crawling through the underground, you find that opportunity abounds for those not given a break the first (or second) time around. Be it wrong place, wrong time, or sweeping trends that overtake a given style, that no longer exists in today’s worldwide scene where pretty much you can carve out a niche audience in any style of metal. Drakkar hail from Belgium and started in 1983, releasing their debut album X-Rated in 1988 in a speed/traditional metal framework before contract disputes and musical differences caused them to split. Resurrecting again in the late 90’s with a demo, they wouldn’t get an official reboot until 2012’s debut album Reloaded, followed by a second full-length in 2014. Vocalist Leni Anderssen appears the lone standing link to Drakkar’s past, as the quintet roar into album three Diabolical Empathy with recruits from 2012 forward.
After a few passes through the ears, the five-piece seem to have shifted the focus of their material onto more of the heavy metal front while occasionally pushing the accelerator to those speed aspects of the past. Early Metallica and Bay Area influences come to the forefront in terms of the smashing snare hits and heads down jackhammer riff precision for “Plague or Cholera”, while “The Endless Way” smashes through in a quick hitting, under three-minute exercise through call and response chorus work, a frantic/melodic lead break, and endless double bass mechanics. The lurching, building guitar action pushes “Rose Hall’s Great House” to that Teutonic realm, taking on bits of Brainstorm and Squealer as the rhythms shift and Leni elevates some of his leather lung melodies during the chorus. A right turn occurs on the sixth track with “Stay with Me”- a semi-acoustic ballad featuring tender female duet supplementation, where Leni chooses to use his lower delivery almost in that 80’s “Close My Eyes Forever” template that makes it a Drakkar standout.
For the relevant pluses to Diabolical Empathy, there are other times where the specific main riff choices and pacing stagnates – when you hope that things would be a touch stronger in terms of fills or vocals, they plod along to make “Lucifero Moderno” and “Evil Below” substandard even to long-time followers of Helloween, Iron Maiden, and the like. And that can be dangerous when you have thirteen tracks to go through in 51 minutes. Drakkar in 2017 probably doesn’t possess the difference making skills to move beyond local heroic appeal – so approach accordingly if you like heavy metal with 80’s speed throwback dynamics.