mark 95 / 100
There are those albums that seem to have artwork and a title that seems to depict the very sound of the band, which is very much the case with Anthenora's "Soulgrinder." The combination of a power-metal vocal style and hard crunching guitar licks reminiscent of bands like Testament creates a very eerie and exhilarating experience for the listener, best described as, well, soul grinding!
The album begins with a very chilling into track called "June 6, 1944, Overlord," which seems to imply the chilling horror of World War II. Although it is the slowest point in cannon of soul-grinding songs, it prepares the listener for the brutality yet to come. And with winding guitar lines and skull crushing drums, the album seems to take off without a hitch.
Though this album could be considered power metal, there are a few attributes which are a welcomed change from an otherwise redundant genre. First of all, although the guitar lines are everything you'd expect on a power metal album, there is a simplicity here that is not characteristic of the genre in general, definitely giving meaning to the phrase "less is more." Unlike the common trend in power metal, the lead work is not over-harmonized nor does it scribble over the other parts. The vocals are in the same way simple but affective. In each track, the vocals follow the same formula, the listener will notice that the verses are sung in one voice, but the endnotes are often times harmonized. The choruses, however, do show off the vocal talent of the singer(s) with complex, but again not overdone harmonies. This simple (yet complex) formula exhibited herein was difficult to latch onto the first time through, but I found that as I listened to it I grew to enjoy it more and more.
The lyrics do leave a little to be desired. Sometimes they are a little repetitive and other times the point doesn't come across easily. For example, the song "Dream Catcher," which is one of my favorites, has a chorus that goes as follows: "Dream catcher, I'm the catcher of your dreams" again and again. The entire experience, however, is not at all undercut by the slight lack in lyrical content.
Other outstanding tracks on "Soulgrinder" include: "Steel Brigade," "A New Rebellion," "Soulgrinder (title track)," and "Hellish Fire," along with the above mentioned "Dream Catcher."
Overall, I'd give this album a 95/100 because it's like a shot of strong alcohol. The first shot is rough going down, but it gets easier and easier as you go! Anthenora appears to have a handle on the power metal sound while adding their own unique touch to an excellent but otherwise redundant genre.