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Stabbingback - "Redeemer" (CD)

Stabbingback - "Redeemer" CD cover image

"Redeemer" track listing:

1. Burn (4:37)
2. Raven (4:21)
3. Knowing the Truth (4:56)
4. Apocalypse (3:40)
5. Crisis (5:07)
6. The Funeral (4:58)
7. Fading to Grey (6:08)
8. Requiem (For a Dime) (5:24)
9. The Enemy Within (4:03)
10. Unstable (4:17)
11. Judgement (6:09)

Reviewed by on October 6, 2008

"The album works very well as an in-between step for metal fans that want something heavier than hard rock, but don’t want to plunge directly into the intensity of the extreme sub-genres."

Over the years metal has drifted steadily farther away from its roots and expanded outwards ever further into the extremes of brutality and speed. Bands that stay closer to the mainstream sound with exclusively clean vocals and use of the standard song structures tend to get less press these days unless they are those select few elites who have set down a massive footprint over decades of fame. There may be imitators aplenty, but not many manage to keep the tradition alive while also exhibiting their own distinct style to set them apart from the goliaths of the scene. Stabbingback fits the bill, situating themselves as a legitimate alternative to the massive names that dominate the scene.

“Redeemer” is the heavy counterpart to Stabbingback’s other album, “Absolution,” which was released on the same day and was meant as an equal but opposite companion. The album works very well as an in-between step for metal fans that want something heavier than hard rock, but don’t want to plunge directly into the intensity of the extreme sub-genres. The songs are heavy enough to keep head bangers satisfied, but there are also plenty of conventional elements like catchiness, repetition, and the verse/chorus/verse configuration. Most of the tracks stick to radio edit length, with a few forays into the five and six minute mark for good measure. Growls and screams are also completely ignored in favor of a more standard clean vocal style. There are a few yells thrown in the mix and some deeper voiced singing, but none of it comes anywhere near what would be heard on a death metal album.

Stabbingback was born out of an earlier band called Shadowhand, which released one album on their own to their local market before disbanding. Some of the songs from that earlier release are also present on "Redeemer," but anyone who happened to have heard them then will still find it worthwhile to check out the newer versions, as the songs have been re-tooled and have significantly better production. The new material has also improved quite a bit on the old, going in new directions and trying different approaches. “The Funeral” does a decent job of sounding like its namesake, changing up the vocal style and using droning low tuned guitar riffs to give off a desolate and miserable feel. While it never hits the truly overwhelming and all-consuming despair perfected by a host of black metal acts, it’s still a lot more sincere than similar themed songs heard on the radio. The fourth track “Apocalypse” also manages to build up a respectably fast guitar part that will put a smile on the face of all those speed demons out there.

The only real problems with “Redeemer” are that the songs are overall similar enough to start to blend together if the whole album is taken in on one single sitting, and that while Stabbingback are well on their way, they haven’t completely established that absolute identity that sets them apart from any other band and makes them instantly recognizable as who they are. They aren’t yet the fastest, the heaviest, the most melodic, or at the cutting edge of unconventional song compositions.

“Redeemer” may not be perfectly pleasing to extreme metal enthusiasts or hard rock aficionados, but it definitely has enough of a pull that either camp should be willing to give it a try and see if it strikes any chords.

Highs: Reasonably heavy but still catchy

Lows: A few of the songs blend together and some of the sounds heard here have been done better elsewhere

Bottom line: Good mix of heaviness and catchiness with compelling clean vocals

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)