Written by: PP on 17/11/2015 00:03:08

It's been just over six weeks since the release of "Prime", the third album by northern Jutland thrash metallers Essence. In that time, I've seen the album compared to everything from The Offspring and Blink 182 in enraged internet warrior comments as metal purists are decrying the band's ambitious shift away from straight-up thrash metal toward arena metal. In what is most certainly a radical shift in style, Essence largely ditch their signature sound --the ultra tight, vicious thrash metal of past two albums -- and replace it with a style comparable to Metallica's eponymous black album in 1991. Although embracing mainstream metal tendencies far more clearly, it's still a knee-jerk reaction from irate fans to go as far as the aforementioned descriptions. The truth, that is, provided you're not a puritanical metal fan, is much simpler: Essence may have excelled at writing credible thrash metal according to the genre textbook, but they never desired to be the Danish metal band that simply frequents the same BETA's and 1000Fryd's year after year. Hence, "Prime", and its expansive, big money production and a shift towards the masses.

And guess what? Once you get over the initial shock, "Prime" is actually a solid album. The deep pockets of Spinefarm Records have allowed for a crystal clear production, which means the ambitious arena metal tracks stand out in their full glory especially with a pair of good headphones. Opener "Refuse To Exist" is a powerful statement to the latter: vicious, lightning speed thrash riffage proves that the technical approach to their guitars is still in place. They also serve as a great contrasting element to vocalist Lasse Skov's changed style, where his throaty howls have become more decipherable in line with James Hetfield's memorable vocals. This allows the songs to be much catchier vocally than they ever were on the first two records. Take a song like "Modern Heroes", for example. Not only does it have high energy tight riffage driving the song forward, but it is also a super catchy, immersive track that is designed to be showcased at festival-size arena stages given its infectiously catchy chorus. "Thunder Bay" may sound like it has significant influence from Metallica's arena metal, but that doesn't make it a bad track. Quite the contrary, actually. "No Sleep Til Def" is epic in its shifts to a foreshadowing dark bridge that explodes into tearing crossover thrash during its chorus. If this isn't thrash metal, then the purists aren't listening properly.

Granted, "Heart Of Gold" could be mistaken for a thrashier Five Finger Death Punch track in some circles. But it's arguably one of the catchier tracks Essence has written to date and is sure to expand their fanbase far beyond mere thrash metal circles. Yes, "Untouchables" is treading on the outer limits of what a metal band can do before their credibility can be called into question give its pop notions, but even here the chorus melody is very catchy, even if this is the most striking cross of traditional metal laws we've heard by a Danish band to date. "Flawless", too, simplifies the band's sound into a radio-friendly rock format. Is that a bad thing? That depends on your view of metal and whether you accept that metal songs can be catchy, too. Come to think about it, it probably comes down to whether you view metalcore as music for teenagers or a catchier version of traditional metal. Either way, thrash metal albums that are both catchy and headbang-friendly are tough to come by. Essence have pitched their idea on "Prime" that will piss off certain types of metal fans, but who will undoubtedly be replaced by a wealth of new fans based on the strength of "Prime". Yes, thrash metal will have lost one of their own, but the Danish metal scene has gained a new player capable of international expansion, even if it means reaching into circles not considered metal enough among some people. This is what Essence should be writing.


Download: Modern Heroes, Refuse To Exist, No Sleep Til Def, Heart Of Gold, Prime
For the fans of: Metallica, Avenged Sevenfold
Listen: Facebook

Released 02.10.2015
Spinefarm Records

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