It happens all the time. You have a band that's focal or main member happens to be the weakest link in the chain. Sometimes, it’s for the better (i.e. Bon Scott-era AC/DC, Vinnie Stigma with Agnostic Front), other times it’s for the worse (Phil Collins-era Genesis, that cheerleader guy fronting the Red Hot Chili Peppers). For Toronto’s Astaroth Incarnate, their frontman, who I’m told is a charismatic fixture on the local hard ‘n’ heavy scene and happens to be the lone member to gussy himself up in some sort of devil on the prowl grease paint, is front and center in all the band promo shots and is the only one to assume a stage name. Using our powers of inference, it’s a safe bet that Astaroth (Sam is his drastically less-evil, and real, name) is being pushed to the visual and conceptual fore of this new blackened melodic death metal outfit. The stumbling block is that when you pull apart and examine the parts comprising the sum, it’s his vocals that play a prevalent role in preventing Omnipotence from being all it can be.
Despite their relative short existence, the inherent and practiced skill of the group's instrument wielding members has proffered an accomplished collection of songs. There are tendrils of varieties of metallic sub-genres comprising the Astaroth Incarnate sound. Generally, they’re the standard set you know and expect from those bands that don’t wander too far off into left field with jazz fusion runs, didgeridoo samples and bossa nova breaks (which, by the way, have all been done in death metal, in case you think I’m just being a smart-ass): black metal, death metal, thrash metal, a sprinkling of power metal and a smidge of doom. Hell, if you listen closely to some of the rhythmic patterns, you can hear modern metal influences; listen even more carefully and you can hear slight remnants of the nü-metal scourge. Throw in a traditional/classic rock sensibility to the manner in which guitarists Pablo Sagastume and Ric Galvez deliver their leads (think Unleashed) and there’s plenty to get excited about with their debut release, regardless of what’s been bevelled off in the name of exuberant inexperience.
What’s not so exciting, but completely understandable and a common rookie mistake, is how in the quest to incorporate the width and breadth of their collective record collections into their own material, there exists moments of meandering and quizzical directional choices. Solid riffs are busied up in “Curse of the Black Plague” and “Re-Creation” which mutes the impact established by the former’s mid-paced strut and the latter’s blackened snarl. Generally, however, the band’s incorporation of melody and relatable riffing – whether it be rapid-fire single notes or palm-muted chugging and everything in between – is both furious and intelligent, falling somewhere between Goatwhore, Exhumed, Behemoth, a keyboard-less Cradle of Filth and Dying Fetus.
Where it gets messy is when Sam Astaroth opens his mouth. He does have a multi-faceted approach, but control and greenness is a looming issue. Screechy, banshee rasping blackness, grizzly bear growls and death grunts are his go-to timbres, but it’s the lack of synthesis of his voice into sections of the mix and rudimentary phrasing style, which more often than not simply mimics and tails what the guitar is doing, gives an impression of either being disjointed or an ordinary cog in a wheel. Overall, there’s quite a bit of promise demonstrated, but also lots of room for growth, which is bodes encouragingly well for the future.
Omnipotence - The Infinite Darkness Track Listing:
02. Curse of the Black Plague
04. Sanctum of Torment