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Massacre (2014)
Rating: 7/10

Raunchy is a veteran Danish band that formed back in 1992 and is now on its sixth record, namely the 11-track Vices.Virtues.Visions. It’s been four years since the sextet’s last opus – 2010’s A Discord Electric – and this new offering is the first to feature new vocalist Mike Semesky, who replaces Kasper Thomsen. After a handful of listens, I have mixed feelings.

Raunchy most certainly deals with big melodies which weave their way through enormous anthems of power rock and progressive metal; at times the band explores some truly epic soundscapes, and so there is always an air of unpredictability throughout – which is no bad thing.

For instance, a track such as ‘Truth Taker’ is a full on thrash experience boasting slamming percussion from Morten Toft Hansen, and the guitar sound of Lars Christensen and Jesper Andreas Tilsted is remarkably heavy. For the most part though, Raunchy is ever so keen to dabble in such contemporary design that I’m left frozen by the tinkering. For a start, while say ‘Truth Taker’ is a bludgeoning, cranked up molten metal pounding, it just can’t help but throw in that curve-ball of clear vocal whispers which in turn brings with it an almost pop-edged sensibility – I just can’t stand that sort of meddling.

Thankfully ‘Truth Taker’ isn’t hindered all that much by the experimentation, but if we rewind to opener ‘Eyes Of A Storm’ then we reach the other end of the spectrum. The track opens with an array of effects and synth dabbling, and then come the Goth-tinged waves of guitar and drums. Yep, it’s not bad for starters, and when the pace picks up we’re treated to what can best be described as a punchy brand of groove metal. However, the band rarely keeps to its extreme path. While the vocals are very much frothing rasps of extremity, it’s all dampened by that shift into Euro-pop delicacy where suddenly we have that sprightly bop of music married with crystal vocal sighs.

I just find it so irritating, but Raunchy has that weird, fleetingly clever yet often annoying blend of high-end metal that can infrequently hint at Faith No More’s otherworldly fusing of aggression and soul. The next though, we’re almost into a nu-metal coldness. For me ‘Eyes Of A Storm’ showcases Semesky’s vocal talents, but forever he’ll loiter in the shadows of Faith No More’s Mike Patton because the sound around him is one that just continually parades a coldness rather than engaging warmth. Having said that, Raunchy should appeal to the masses because they rarely work to boundaries; it’s certainly a metal that parades outside of the box.

‘Digital Dreamer’ comes crashing in with a juddering riff as the band showcases its thrashing quality, again bolstered by Morten Toft Hansen’s relentless barrage. With the subtle injections of Jeppe Christensen, there’s enough progressive doodling here to keep one interested. The combo also has an eye for the sprawling, gargantuan soundscapes which should grace every festival stage; one cannot argue with the glorious, Goth highs of ‘Never Enough’ or the subtle, dream-like qualities of ‘Anasthesia Throne’ featuring some truly sugary vocal sways until the track gallops like some fully-armoured horse.

Yes, Raunchy successfully incorporates traditional metal aesthetics with modern dynamics, but for me it’s an album of fits and starts and one which seems to irritate me in whatever experimentation it attempts. Although not overtly technical, the subtle injections of clearer vocals seem unpredictable after the barrages of lighter brutality. ‘I, Avarice’ is a prime example of this, because it’s the sort of track which sounds far better as a slower, haunting piece rather than one which feels the need to experiment with faster, belligerence.

I’m unsure if the band would ever admit to being influenced by Faith No More – after all, the original alternative metal gods have always seemed without company – but Raunchy is very much a force of nature reliant on that ever-changing orchestration. Nevertheless, while they seem so desperate to sweep us away with another tide of slamming rhythms and then jolt us back with a dose of cosmic progression, I just can’t seem to become absorbed by it. Eventually, the more aggressive vocal streaks become extremely dull and grating.

If one wasn’t to know of the band’s past, I’d soon be thinking that this was a very new band hinting at deathcore dynamics and yet trying to escape the grate by way of melodic juxtaposition, but with the likes of ‘Clarity’ and ‘The Singularity Heart’ I’m left rather drained by the continual surges then stop-start motions of a band that is somehow progressive and yet at times repetitive.

Neil Arnold

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