posted on 7/2009 By:
There are so many of us out there who have vastly differing views on how metal relates to pop culture, or vice versa, just like the endless argument between what is supposedly authentic versus imitation heavy metal. So, when presented with a band like Malta’s Knockturn Alley for musical consideration, reviewing is a truly lose-lose situation. On one hand, Medusa is pretty much standard-issue modern metal that blends liberal bits of prog’, metalcore, and melodic death with a Swedish lean, so while it’s performed very well, it’s about as by-the-book as you can possibly get. Not exactly the best of beginnings, I'd say.
Also, let’s remove the band’s moniker from the equation completely, so for a minute or two, we have no idea what they’re called. It’s been established they play an entirely too common form of metal; the kind with one foot planted firmly in massive pop culture, while proudly wearing an At The Gates t-shirt. There’s no huge sin in that, so with originality out the window, we’re left with a respectably energetic, well-structured and admirably produced self-released effort, that shows off a desire to appeal to wide audiences. The songwriting is good, with the few expected moments of legitimately kick ass riffing, but unfortunately it’s a limited bag of riff tricks to behold. “This Silence Is A Threat”, however, has an excellent bridge towards the end of the track that is quite kind to the ear, “Deadly Twist Of Fate” has a cool groove going on that I’m sure will win over the live crowd with a vengeance, and the eight-minute title track manages to end the album on a progressively sprawling, highly promising note that I wish the rest of the disc contained. Besides those few exceptions, there's not much else of interest to hold on to here.
The problem is the combination of ‘this shit, again?!’ choice of aesthetic, along with the band’s childlike moniker (Slytherin, anyone?), which I’ve ignored up until now. It’s hard to determine where they want to go with this, whether it’s further towards the pure mainstream, or somewhere among the Unearth’s and Darkest Hour’s of the scene, who can still pull in a Suffocation fan once in a great while. Medusa is spit-shined and polished to a distracting fault in the songwriting department, so there's a need for fresher riffs, some unexpected vocals, anything to get people to overlook their name and appreciate their music for what it is. There is talent to be heard here, but at this point, they’ve made a lot of different stylistic choices that really aren’t doing them any big favors from a potential marketing standpoint, so I don‘t know if the future bodes well for Knockturn Alley. I’ve never read any of the books, so I don’t know how this story ends.
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