Having dropped their self-released debut full length Seduce, Deceive and Lead Astray in 2009, Midlands hard rockers Aceldama are back for another go with a new eponymous EP. Named for the sepulchre in Jerusalem which is associated with Judas (appropriately rock and roll) Aceldama sit right on the boundary where hard rock and metal meet. This grey area between genres is oft inhabited by bands who yearn for a return to what they perceive as the ‘glory years’ of metal (that is to say NWOBHM and everything that came before it), and produce appropriately vintage-sounding music.
Unlike these fusty antiquarians, Aceldama approach their sound from a very modern place, thanks in no small part to the EP’s flawless production job. The rhythm tone is a joy to behold, the perfect balance between saturation and bite, and the drums are massive and perfectly defined, with frontwoman Leanne Dawes’ commanding vocals bestriding the mix, as is appropriate for the style. There are nice touches to the production throughout, from the tasteful use of delays on isolated lines in ‘Collision’ to the dubbing of subtle crowd noise in the bridge of ‘What Has Gone Before’. My only complaint with the production is that the kick sample is a little clickier than I like and the bass a little less powerful, but I can’t see many people taking issue with that.
Musically, there is much in the way of massive powerchord riffs, and use of diatonic harmony in thirds, and the songs don’t really stray too far from this template, with the occasional clean section or build up adding flavour. Indeed, musically the EP has the potential to suffer from ‘every riff sounds the same syndrome’, the band straying from their comfort zone only very occasionally. What saves Aceldama from such a fate is the brevity of the tracks. Every song here is concise, and every musical nuance feels like it needs to be there, in fact most of the tracks are short enough to leave you thinking ‘is it over already?’ when they’re done, which is a mark of quality of songwriting I haven’t heard from a band on Aceldama’s level in a goodly while indeed.
No matter what there is to say about the music here however, the star of the show is undoubtedly Leanne Dawes’ voice. Her confident belt is much more strident and assured than the meek and breathy outpourings of many of her contemporaries, and her lyrics, while by no means poetic genius do have a certain flair about them, I thought the metaphor in ‘Chapter 2’ was particularly pleasing. Unquestionably the best thing about Aceldama is their vocal melodies however. I always champion songwriting in my reviews; I feel out of all the elements that go into a good record, this is perhaps the most crucial. Every song here is catchy, and judicious use of harmony overdubs adds a little sophistication to the vocal arrangements.
For an easily identifiable reference point, I would compare Aceldama initially to bands like Evanescence or Within Temptation, but with far more balls than the former and with less flowery and symphonic pomposity than the latter, ready made, as I see it to appeal to those who would like the aforementioned artists if only their music had a little more bite, indeed given the right marketing it’d be interesting to see just how far Aceldama could go. If you’re not too much of an elitist to listen to something without blastbeats and growling I’d certainly recommend giving this EP a go.
Aceldama’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Aceldama/56921502184