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True - "Still Life" (CD)

True - "Still Life" CD cover image

"Still Life" track listing:

1. Intro (3:06)
2. Once (8:59)
3. Massacre (2:33)
4. The End (3:10)
5. Okus Crnila (3:27)
6. Who Am I? (8:16)
7. I Kill For Nothing (8:52)

Reviewed by on April 18, 2010

"“Still Life” is definitely not a terrible album and has some intriguing parts, but overall, it’s just another mediocre death metal album."

Hailing from Croatia, True plays a pretty typical breed of death metal. With angular, creeping riffs, triggered drums and the right touch of crust punk, True’s latest full-length, “Still Life,” sticks with the pack when it comes to death metal. One element that stands out (and that the band wants the listener to be very aware of) is that they make use of a stringed drone instrument called the tambura. While not much different from a lute, it has a very folky sound and adds an interesting element to the music. While used quite interestingly at the beginning of the album, I got pretty sick of hearing it by the end, especially where it could have been substituted for a normal electric guitar.

Always being one for things new or weird, I was fairly curious when I heard that True uses a tambura in their music. The way they used it was rather unexpected. The intro song is very folky and uses some chanting and wailing; it nearly sounds like “Still Life” is going to be a straight folk metal release in the vein of Finntroll. But when the next track “Once” hit, it was obvious that this album was straight death metal. What I found most interesting about True’s tambura use is that they use it directly alongside the death metal riffs. Instead of wheedling on it for atmospheric effect, they literally play death metal riffs on it. It works on “Once” and in various other parts of the album, but by the end of it, it played off as more of a gimmick than anything, and doesn’t really integrate well into most of the music.

Even with the tambura thrown in as an interesting twist, the majority of the music played on this album is typical death metal, to the point that True sounds like yet another Dismember clone. The riffs get repetitive and some songs are just too long and seem to lack substance. Besides the tambura, True does add some interesting parts. “Once” features a well done progressive section in the middle, complete with a drum solo. “The End” is a thrasher with a nice crusty sound. “Who Am I?” also features a well-done progressive section.

Overall, “Still Life” is mediocre death metal with a traditional folk instrument thrown in. The progressive parts are a nice addition; I wonder why True didn’t make more use of them. Most of the music isn't particularly heavy, due partly to the tambura itself. Being a drone instrument, it doesn't pack a whole lot of power. A lot of the riffs played with the tambura would have sounded better with an electric guitar.

True shows some potential on this release. If they hadn’t relied so much on the tambura to make them stand out and had more consistency in the sound, I think this album could have been a break from the well-worn death metal sound. “Still Life” is definitely not a terrible album and has some intriguing parts, but overall, it’s just another mediocre death metal album.

Highs: Interesting progressive parts, tambura adds a unique flare in parts.

Lows: Most of the music is fairly mediocre death metal.

Bottom line: Though the band utilizes some non-standard instrumentation, this album doesn't stand out.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 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)