Warforged – The Grove | Sundial (The Artisan Era)Monday, 5th September 2022
When a band announces ‘the beginning of a new era’ after parting ways with a crucial member of the act, there’s always two ways it can go. The bold claim can be stated, but it ends up being a false declaration and the band then sounds like a watered down iteration of their former selves. The second, and thankfully the case here for Warforged, is that they can take the time to reinvent themselves and showcase a new passion that exudes from their performance. What makes The Grove | Sundial even better than that? They manage to pull off said maneuver in such a way that you can still here traces of themselves in it, while pushing the band in a fresh direction that works for them.
Having followed Warforged since their first release, they became pretty much synonymous with a form of technical death metal that was conceptual and rather murky in tone – very atmospheric and blackened, akin to a mystery in a bog. To that end, The Grove | Sundial represents a significant adjustment to their formula. There’s no big concept here, and the sound is much less murky and blackened. But surprisingly, the change is pulled off magnificently, and within the first two tracks, “No Land Man” and “Hymn of Broken Teeth,” you can still hear a trace of that blackened darkness below the surface. It’s just not the dominating force, rather one player in the middle of numerous extreme tactics. “Hymn of Broken Teeth” features some wall-of-sound assaults and unsettling grooves at the track’s end that really stand out in a more modern way.
“Sheridan Road” is where the band really spreads their wings into more diverse territory though. A very gentle, clean vocal driven beginning takes its time building things up – something that feels more in the Rivers of Nihil or Black Crown Initiate wheelhouse – but it comes as a welcome and genuine surprise. Of course, more brutal riffing and aggression rears its head, but the atmospheric touch lingers on and leads towards more progressive territory. “Bliss Joined to the Bone” brings in some bleak, almost industrial vibes, which oddly feel at home with the band and link towards the darkness of their past, even as the intensity rises into more tech-y chaos. Even the relatively short bonebreaker “House of Resentment” illustrates this interesting dichotomy between frantic tech riffs and melodies alongside moments of restful atmosphere.
For all the corners many tech death bands have been locking themselves into, it’s nice to see a band find a way to bulldoze their way into more creative spaces. Warforged may be even more intense and chaotic than before, and they’ve upped their songwriting into more diverse and fulfilling areas to match it. The Grove | Sundial is one of the finest extreme metal offerings you’ll find this year, for it’s ability to meld the mindmelting stuff into a more interesting and unique listen.