I think I still prefer 2003's "Occult Medicine" to YYRKOON's soon-to-be-released (in North America) "Unhealthy Opera", but the latter continues to grow on me. Fortunately, fans of "Occult Medicine" will not be let down with "Unhealthy Opera", as the French band follows up a strong death/thrash album with another strong death/thrash album.Those unfamiliar with the group's work should consider something that is broadly along the lines of Polish death metal. Bands like HATE and BEHEMOTH (in parts and without the same songwriting grandness) provide a general starting point. Both albums feature tons of chunky riffs, a thick 'n' rubbery bass, and hard-hitting drum sound (EXMORTEM comes to mind here as well), and low-tone, semi-guttural vocals. Though very heavy in approach, the arrangements are smartly structured, thereby ensuring that each song does not sound like every other song and that melody is not left behind. The guitar solos are used as a point of contrast to the usually brutal riffs. These melodic counterpoints have a way of leaping out of the mix, adding colorful flourishes, and are anything but pointless wankery. Back to my earlier comment about preferring "Occult Medicine", the preference is not a strong one and mainly has to do with fewer songs on "Unhealthy Opera" that are as immediately catchy. While never overtly melodic, several tracks on the 2003 release, such as "Censored Project", "Trapped into Life", and "Schyzophrenic Carnage" boasted more recognizable choruses. With the exception of the very catchy (and very Polish death metal) "Avatar Ceremony" (now a favorite of mine), the music of "Unhealthy Opera" requires a tad more investment. The upside is that the arrangements are often just as captivating and even faintly epic as "Occult Medicine", though the black metal slivers that remained on the 2003 release are largely gone, as are the sparingly used clean vocals. Instead, guitarist Stéphane Souteyrand sticks mainly to his growl and is more selective with his shrieking parts. (Incidentally, the "Signs" bonus track available on the limited edition does use clean/melodic vocals on the chorus, but was actually written several years ago and perhaps serves as a glimpse into the band's past.) Also on the positive side (and there are no real negatives), there are once again no filler tracks. I found one in particular, "Injecting Dementia", to be notable for the ominous mid-tempo chugging that begins and ends the song; in between the pace is lightning quick and frighteningly explosive, save for one perfectly juxtaposed quiet section. A couple of instrumental acoustic tracks ("Temple of Infinity" and "Lair…") are classy and fitting. Much will be made of phenomenal drummer Dirk Verbeuren's (SCARVE, SOILWORK) absence from this album, but Laurent Harrouart has returned to the fold is certainly no slouch. The staccato bursts and double-bass power remain intact. Also of note is a guest solo on "Horror from the Sea" by Andy LaRocque. If you are a fan of finely crafted brutal death metal with melodic flourishes and Lovecraft lyrical themes, then you cannot go wrong with "Unhealthy Opera". YYRKOON creates quality death metal and is a band to watch.
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