Marionette

Enemies

Written by: AP on 07/10/2009 23:10:55

Marionette's credentials raise an eyebrow, I'll give them that. Sporting an average age of 19, the band has plowed its way through to many an underground award, as well as shared stages with such renowned acts as Machine Head, Mastodon, Meshuggah and Slayer. "Enemies" is their second album in just one and a half years, which they no doubt have their youthful vigor to thank for. It claims to mix elegance, darkness, power, aggression and speed, injecting new light and energy into the metal genre; but most of all it injects speed, speed, and more speed.

Of course there is much more to be said about this fine sophomore release, such as that it's chock-full of uncontained anger, and that it features stupendous amounts of melody as delivered by the obligatory two guitars and a keyboard setup - now standard fare in melodic death metal circles (the bands that don't have a full-time pianist in their ranks tend to opt for samples on their newest releases). However, these things have a tendency to become lost in hardcore and thrash influenced drumming, which, let's face it, often sounds like the man with the sticks is high on sugar. Unlike their contemporaries, Marionette shun the idea of mid-paced tempos, and go all out with the machine gun pedals and blast beats ninety percent of the time, pausing only to showcase some cool riffs underneath, or the ethereal clean vocals that speak a word or two here and there.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for this kind of thing. Dimension Zero, for example, are able to focus their speed into a relentless intensity and still retain a sense of coherence in the music. Dead Swans use speed to their advantage to incite feelings of extreme discomfort and horror. Slayer plays fast because they're metal as fuck and when you look at them, you realize that if they ever wrote a ballad, Kerry King would suddenly turn into a fluffy kitten. Marionette however, cannot attest to having any of these things. Because of the melodic overload, the music sounds rather tame and welcoming, and many of the band's riffs have a curious, upbeat warmth to them. And they don't have tribal tattoos, black sunglasses, grizzly long hair or braided beards either.

At first the immense velocity of "The Swine" and "The Silver Spoon" sounds refreshingly punishing and overwhelming, but as the album moves forth with no relent, it is the lack of versatility that begins to sound punishing. Ironically these fast movers are where the band performs best, as their more down-tempo, electronically tinged moments have a tendency to sound pompous and forced (a prime example being "The Lie", smack in the centre of the album). But despite the fact that the band refrains from roaming in uncharted territory, there is something about their straightforward, grassroots approach that sounds genuine. It has a heartfelt honesty to it, even if lacks in grit.

In some ways Marionette could be likened to Dead By April, as both bands have that tender character to them. It's sandbox stuff rather than the disturbing, murderous shit depicted on the album cover. As if the album is innocently asking, "What's your name? Can we be friends?", rather than wickedly sneering and saying, "Do you want some candy? I got some in the van." For an album that proclaims darkness and aggression, "Enemies" sounds too... nice.

Trio Fredrik Nordström, Peter In De Betou and Pontus Hjelm have been at the helm for this one, which explains many things. We have the layered vocals from Dead By April - courtesy of Mr. Hjelm, the celestial ambiance from Dimmu Borgir - courtesy of Mr. Betou, and the overall melodic death-ness of it all that Mr. Nordström is so renowned for. So if it's a dose of well-produced, well-performed modern melodic death metal you're craving, Marionette can provide. Like a herd of tamed horses, they prefer to remain within the confines of their enclosure and gallop around it in circles.

Download: The Swine, Unman, Through Veils

For the fans of: Dark Tranquillity, Dimension Zero, Nightrage, Soilwork

Listen: Myspace

Release date 05.10.2009

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