THE ABSENCE – Coffinized

THE ABSENCE – Coffinized

Whether or not we’re ready to accept it melodic death metal (melodeath) is no longer a genre where one can still sound innovative but it is still one where quality, engaging records can be conceived. Arguably the first melodeath album was Death’s "Human", but I think it’s fairer to say that the genre was born from the perfect storm of the increasingly accessible Death, Carcass and Edge Of Sanity from which the renowned Gothenburg trio (At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity and In Flames) took off and developed, supported by 90s Carcass spawn Arch Enemy, rising Hypocrisy and their derivatives Darkane and Soilwork. Original bands like Opeth, Omnium Gatherum, Insomnium, Scar Symmetry and In Mourning then had taken the genre to its logical and inevitable conclusion before Arch Enemy mellowed out while Carcass and At The Gates unexpectedly reactivated. Those bands arriving late to the game, such as the Floridian ensemble The Absence, were left with the unenviable task of making their inevitably derivative music sound exciting and engaging.

The mission was fairly accomplished with the first two recordings: "From Your Grave" (2005) and "Riders Of The Plague" (2007) but the third album "Enemy Unbound" (2010) found The Absence too comfortable and safe at their game and the At The Gates influences were so striking the album was panned by many critics including myself which possibly contributed to a 6 year hiatus from which the band emerged with a crushing near-perfect beast of a return-to-form, "A Gift For The Obsessed" (2018) which I personally heralded at 5.5/6 and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one. The album was one of the best melodeath albums of at least the 2000s so far and I no longer had any doubts that The Absence 2010-2016 was temporary, double entendre intended.

When I learned of new album coming out just a few days ago I immediately asked our extraordinary chief editor, Andrea Chirulescu to see about a copy for a review which she speedily arranged, M-Theory really coming through favorably which is often the case, but not necessarily the rule, with smaller labels. I must say that, even though "Coffinized" is a step down from the quality of its predecessor, I’m glad I gave it a chance as it finds Jamie Stewart (vocals), Taylor Nordberg (guitars), Michael Joseph "Mike" Leon (bass), Jeramie Kling (drums) as well as session guitarist Joey Concepcion ( on 4 tracks) in excellent form.

I’m glad The Absence went back to "Riders Of The Plague" and penned one of their best tracks ever, "Choirs Of Sickness". It is a small masterpiece of everything these guys are known for: At The Gates riffing, infectious early Arch Enemy chorus, Revocation structures and latter Death progression, and even a little clean vocal here and there for good measure. It’s one of those tracks you can listen to over and over and never get tired of. Another highlight is the immediate follower, "Radiant Devastation", again, bringing "Riders…" back, and all of the above ingredients in spades. "Black Providence" sounds like something Carcass could have written between "Necrotiscism: Descanting The Insalubrious" (1991) and "Heartwork" (1993) but, if that weren’t enough, there are strong Megadeth or early Witchery stylings for another perfect melodeathster. While slightly inferior to those three, "Future Terminal" recalls "Dead And Gone" off of "Riders…" without as much progression but still very catchy, but the biggest surprise is "This Consuming Nocturne" reminiscent of In Flames’ "Whoracle/Colony" days. Those are all the best moments of this album and they all make up the reason for a 5/6 score.

The rest are why it’s not 5.5/6 like "A Gift…". Firstly, the opener title track is quite disappointing in both quality and as an opener, while fast and technical scorchers such as "Cathedral Dawn" or "Aperture Expands" are evident of the same tendency that made "Enemy Unbound" so vapid: by the numbers melodeath lacking in memorability. And "Discordia" has got to be one of the simplest (by The Absence standards) and the laziest tracks they have ever written, just a fast verse riff and an average melody for a chorus and not much else besides.

"Coffinized" is an excellent, often exciting and innovative work with cold and a little raw but excellent production courtesy of Jeramie Kling and Taylor Nordberg, mix by Kling and mastering by Jonas Kjellgren (Immortal, Overkill, Scar Symmetry) which, however, sometimes sounds like The Absence take it easier than they can afford to considering the kind of music and genre they chose to play. It is no match for "A Gift…", better than "Enemy…" and stands next to "Riders" on the podium but I’m not sure if lower or higher. I still recommend it for the highlights but I hope the progressive spirit will prevail over simplicity on future endeavors.