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Shraphead - "Blind & Seduced" (CD)

Shraphead - "Blind & Seduced" CD cover image

"Blind & Seduced" track listing:

1. Welcome
2. Stolen Trust
3. Merry Go Round
4. Blind & Seduced
5. Just Another Fool Who...
6. The Hundred
7. The Life, The Path To Choose
8. Nothingless
9. Revelation
10. The Bond
11. Iconoclast
12. Evilberry Jam
13. Ageless

Reviewed by on June 15, 2011

"If you’re a Testament fan looking for a little more technicality and tenderness, a Threat Signal fan desiring less mechanical precision, or a Scar Symmetry fan open to a new evolution of melodeath, “Blind & Seduced” is your album."

Listening to up-and-coming bands like Shraphead can be a double-edged sword. For all the songwriting prowess, technical mastery, and production sheen on proud display, the fact remains that modern metal is overpopulated with such hungry young bands – all trying to squeeze through the starting gate at once, and mashing into a bland, indistinguishable blur even before their hooves hit the track.

Luckily for Shraphead (and for you, dear reader), they have a few things going for them that ought to winch them a notch or two above the rest. Consider their native land of Norway, a country primarily known (in rock, at least) for its raw, evil black metal, complete with smoking cathedrals and posturing “artists.” Any Norwegian band to break the black metal mold, whether from within (Darkthrone, Enslaved) or from without (Susperia, Pagan’s Mind) is a band worth some attention. A shallow observation, perhaps – remember the gimmicky novelty, circa 1999, of Slipknot’s hailing from Iowa? – but Shraphead may very well help broaden Norway’s contribution to global metal.

The reasons become apparent in their debut full-length, “Blind & Seduced,” an above-average slab of modern metal that grabs your ears and never lets go. Musically, it’s an organic blend of energetic thrash ‘n’ roll, powerful groove, and enticing Gothenburg-esque guitar melodies that seek to serve the songs rather than overpower them. And serve the songs they do. What draws you in as “Blind & Seduced” unfolds is its humbleness; these guys aren’t showoffs, just spectacularly good at what they do. This should earn them extra points and a bit of grace from jaded metalheads ready to eviscerate every cocky “next big thing” on their official Facebook pages.

Shraphead’s final major asset is also its voice. Ignoring the “brutal/clean” convention of so many bands of this type, frontman Jo Johnsrud sings his heart out with a conviction that all but eliminates the need for scary growls. His wide-ranged, soulful vocals carry these songs on a rolling cloud, complementing the restrained guitar wizardry and threading all the present musical elements together with a definitive exclamation point. Johnsrud is more than icing on a cake; he’s the mortar that holds these expertly configured sonic bricks together.

Ironically, this also proves a slight curse. Johnsrud is almost too successful in his role. The uniformity of his vocal performance often sees him repeating certain melodic patterns, teetering on the line beyond which a motif becomes a rehash. The result is that after a few spins of “Blind & Seduced,” you might hum a few of the prominent vocal melodies, but struggle to even remember the rest. To claim that all tracks sound the same would be inaccurate and unfair, but they do tend to run together a little too much to retain distinct identities, at least after the early listens.

A redeeming factor, however, is the band’s refusal to take itself too seriously and determination to simply let it rip and have a blast. They go out of their way to advertise this ethos via certain song titles – “Merry Go Round” and “Evilberry Jam” won’t soon be forgotten – but it really shines through in their collective performance. The lack of overall originality in Shraphead’s basic approach to metal is compensated for in their inspired execution, and the obvious fun they’re having doing it. If you’re a Testament fan looking for a little more technicality and tenderness, a Threat Signal fan desiring less mechanical precision, or a Scar Symmetry fan open to a new evolution of melodeath, “Blind & Seduced” is your album.

Likewise, metal fans young and old that appreciate honest, solid songwriting and refreshing melody could do worse than give Shraphead a shot.

Highs: Ripping opener “Stolen Trust,” galloping rocker “The Hundred,” diverse instrumental “Evilberry Jam,” arresting vocals by Jo Johnsrud, and a stellar mix by Daniel Bergstrand (Keep Of Kalessin, In Flames, Darkane, etc.).

Lows: Johnsrud’s style tends toward repetition and occasionally blurs the line between songs, diluting their individuality.

Bottom line: A respectable modern metal album that skillfully mixes multiple subgenres while keeping it fresh and catchy.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)