In much the same way as the eminent sage and philosopher Tyler Durden once opined “Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken”, my first thought upon hearing German ‘progressive death metal’ sextet Words of Farewell‘s debut album Immersion was “Widdly keyboard solos alone do not a progressive band make”. You see, the music that makes up Immersion is far more beholden to the Gothenborg melodic death metal scene that spawned the likes of Dark Tranquillity than to any progressive metal act you might care to name – Alexander Otto’s gruff, Mikael Stanne-indebted deathly growls alone might come as something of a shock for anyone coming into Immersion expecting a silken-throated crooner in the more traditional progressive mould, while the songs themselves are five-minute slices of high-energy, rousing melodeath, characterised by Jonas Wübbe’s driving double-kick drumming and guitar tag-team Erik Gaßmus and Henrik Tschierschky’s tight, punchy and hook-laden riffs.
The main nod towards a progressive influence comes in the form of Leo Wichmann’s keyboard and ambient accompaniments, which are extremely well integrated into the songs. I’m kind of sceptical about the presence of keys and synths in a lot of metal, to be honest – quite often, Janne Warmen-esque jubiliant ivory-tinkling and poorly-chosen patches serve to put me right off any given album. However, Wichmann’s contributions to Words of Farewell‘s sound are tastefully restrained where appropriate, providing breathy, windswept depth and scope to the band’s arrangements, and even his keyboard solos fail to trigger my cynical eyebrow-raising mechanism thanks to an overall production job that sits them comfortably alongside the guitarists’ leads. In fact, certain highlight moments of the album would hardly be as effective without Wichmann’s presence – see the impressively stirring chorus of ‘End Of Transmission’, which sees an ascending lead guitar melody charge triumphantly out of a broiling stormcloud of billowing powerchords and cloudscraping synths.
Moments like that one are Words of Farewell‘s main strength, as it happens – the band have an undeniable knack for conjuring melodies that are not only catchy and memorable, but that also sound genuinely emotive. The aforementioned ‘End Of Transmission’ in particular should be a barnstormer of a track live, while the 52-second electronic instrumental ‘Auriga’ builds gradually into the main keyboard riff of ‘The Great Escape’ in a particularly effective, adrenaline-building fashion. The band rarely dips below mid-tempo pacing for the album’s 48-minute running time, yet the songwriting is accomplished enough that each song is memorable and distinct.
The main issue facing Words of Farewell, then, is that while Immersion is a polished, confident and thoroughly entertaining slab of emotive and dramatic melodic death metal, the band aren’t yet doing quite enough to distinguish themselves from their peers in the likes of Dark Tranquillity, Insomnium and Omnium Gatherum. That said, fervent fans of Gothenborg-style melodeath will likely take Word of Farewell gladly to their bosoms, and find Immersion to be a welcome addition to their collections.