Abaddon magazine

Music magazine

Monday, December 5, 2022

Review: Unbowed – Colour the Soul

Label: Self released

Date: May 20th, 2022

Time and again, I’ve fallen for a misleading announcement. The seminal, third full length record by this Canadian quintet is advertised as a melodic death / black metal album. Well, two out of three would perhaps not be a bad score elsewhere, but for Unbowed, having been around for over a decade, it’s weird, to say the least, that a genre classification remains untrue. Then again, I’m unfamiliar with their earlier efforts, so it might be that they’ve just switched styles in the meantime.

Whatever the case may be, please note at the very beginning that there’s next to nothing on “Colour the Soul” that would imply black metal as a source of influence. Well, maybe that Impaled Nazarene shirt on one of the members at the photo shoot. Other than that, Unbowed performs modern melodic death metal, combined with metalcore or deathcore. All the perks included.

No matter the influences or definitions, one must admit that the record is quite homogenous throughout. Its aggressiveness toned down by the melancholic side of the band. The instruments are skillfully used to the purpose of conveying, first and foremost, the atmosphere surrounding the record. Superb mixing lets all the necessary details come outright to the surface. The vocalist gives it all to paint the full picture, being very expressive in various ranges. Drums are as dynamic as is absolutely needed, though the moves are somewhat predictable for the genre’s necessities…

Guitars need to be pointed out as the ones that infiltrate the “wow factor” on “Colour the Soul”. Some of the solutions used are quite surprising and give the much needed freshness. Keyboards, too. I would like to call the attention to “Eigi Einhamr”, where one can easily find even doom metal influences. Plus, what’s left of black metal in Unbowed is mostly locked up within this track. Easily the best, most “experimental”, versatile and curious song of the record. To an extent, its follower, “Fire of Wode” gives out the similar feel, but with black metal again backstage, sipping goat’s blood out of a skull of all vanquished by its predecessor. Black metal, sort of Primordial-ish, returns in “Stream of Life // Flow of Death”, and then it’s off to incinerate a church or two.

The opener, “Hero Lux” has a different type of quality, especially with the gang vocals in the chorus. It is, by far, the biggest “hit” of the album and deservingly got filmed.

The trouble is that all the mentioned elements of Unbowed, for the better part of the remainder of “Colour the Soul”, assume a “passive” position. Playing it safe, or so it seems. Guitars on occasion peak through the curtains, but that’s about it. Too much relying on the trusted patterns, without enough imaginative probes, leaves the listener in a something of an ambivalent state. Gliding through the safety of the cleared out path.

In other words, there’s fairly little to convince a returning listener. Not enough discernible hooks or catchy passages. There’s obvious potential, as exemplified by the mentioned tracks, but it’s all condensed within those. Spreading similar ideas around the whole material would make much more of an impression.