Norwegian power metal band Communic continue their crusade to prove that their home country can be known for more than black metal and blasphemy. After the release of their impressive debut, the band continues to reinvent their sound, often to the chagrin of their fan base. After the lukewarm reception of 2008’s A Payment of Existence, the band has returned with The Bottom Deep, a decent, yet troubled continuation of the band’s shift towards a heavier, less progressive sound.
Communic play an edgy, progressive tinged brand of power metal and are often compared to their American contemporaries Nevermore. This is a fair comparison, yet by no means do the two bands run parallel paths. The rhythm section takes the lead, with complex time signatures and an unusual lack of emphasis on lead guitar melodies. There is a strong focus on groove and combined with singer/guitarist Oddleif Stensland’s mid range, emotive voice, the band is able to carve out a fairly fresh, distinctive sound. With that said, the new material on display has a definitively tired sound, almost as if the songs written simply for the sake of putting out a record.
The opener “Facing Tomorrow” begins with a bang, with rapid fire percussion and chugging guitars the order of business, giving the listener a clear idea of what the rest of the album has in store. “Denial” takes a slightly softer approach, and has a few interesting melodies on display, but tends to meander in a way many of the tracks to come do. Stensland’s voice sounds tired, and there is a noticeable lack of effort, an almost exhausted feel that can only come from what I perceive to be a lack of inspiration. “Flood River Blood” has some pleasing acoustic segments and stunning percussive work by under the radar talent Tor Anderson.
“In Silence With My Scars” shows Stensland attempting rather unsuccessfully to sing outside of his comfort range, and while the results aren’t disastrous, they certainly shouldn’t be repeated without careful consideration. The songs continue to flow from one to the other with little differentiation, and while none of them are complete duds, there is this constant sense of familiarity that makes it difficult to sit through more than few at a time. The title track is a short and soft acoustic ballad with some beautiful voice work and moving lyrical prose, an unexpected surprise that precedes what is probably the worst track on the album, the anticlimactic closer “In Union We Stand.”
To add to the disappointing musical direction, the band has gone with a stripped down production, with a dirty, echoing sound that could be a result of a misguided attempt to make the music sound heavier, or simple laziness. With the exception of the drums each instrument sounds flat, and even they have a sort of muddy, mechanical feel about them. When all is said and done, Communic is a consistently impressive band, yet this release is a pretty big misstep. While not without it’s charms, The Bottom Deep probably won’t receive many spins from this listener going forward.