We’re having quite the year for upsets with a plethora of artists increasingly reluctant to stick with all they’ve been associated with in the past, dropping the gauntlets to wrestle with fresh ideas. It’s surely a positive thing. But when you hear a description boasting that the fringes of hostile black metal are set to be spliced with a tinge of power metal – curiosity takes hold.
You may think India’s Demonic Resurrection have successfully demonstrated this already, but Single Bullet Theory have strange ambitions in the fact there’s a smidgeon of gothic sadness and a underlay of middle-eastern melody here too. The Philadelphia quartet have had a reshuffle since 2007′s On Broken Wings, with the addition of two new guitarists and a drummer.
What strikes us first in this fusion is Matt DiFablo’s aspiration to vary his pipes. We have no beef with hybrid vocals co-existing, but making sure each segregated style adapts to the instrumental character of the band remains something of a challenge for Single Bullet Theory on IV.
Hands Of The Wicked has hints of Machine Head and Iced Earth crusted into a frame of aggression. If it manifested itself in physical actions, it would be a callous assault – a two-by-four with a rusted nail on its tip swiping at you in the isolation and frustration of a desert heat. It’s a wickedly blasphemous tune, and a one with a rare but clear advantage in its clean vocalisations and exploding blackened verses of tremolo madness.
You wouldn’t be blamed for skipping Auctioneer of Souls when you’re past half-way point of the nearly-ten-minute song. The track features over 20 guitar solos from a wealth of talent including members and ex-members of Nevermore, Death and King Diamond to name but a few. In what is meant to be an epic, is simply an unflattering fuzz of excessive solo work that draws on for an unnecessary period of time. Letting Go returns to basics, but with seemingly uninterested conviction – not slowing the pace to greater effect, but rather holding up the album. At quite the contrast we’re treated to Samsara, which could be mistaken for coming from an entirely separate entity when listening to the symphonic keys and low gothic vocals on the darkly ethereal chorus.
When they want to do heavy, they really lay down the law – especially outlined in a raw cover of Death’s Spirit Crusher. They’re plastered with gritty chunks of abrasive guitar and scratchy production – whelping a cry of attention with the most flat-fisted, no-nonsense approach. Theoretically, any musical fusion on paper grants both excitement and suspicion – this just doesn’t come together to create something anywhere near as impressive as pre-judgements would dictate.