I'd pretty much given up on this Nicklas Rudolfsson before I started believing in him. Known largely for his SACRAMENTUM and DEATHWITCH outfits, with SACRAMENTUM being no better than average and DEATHWITCH being excruciatingly boring, checking out any other Rudolfsson-led band didn't seem worth the effort. Well, RUNEMAGICK is a better-late-than-never surprise. Their fourth release is very, very good. If you miss ASPHYX as much as you should, you'll no doubt be thrilled with this band's earthy recording aesthetic and their leanings toward super-heavy doomdeath. If you pine for the days of AUTOPSY's Mental Funeral and the sludgier, slower sides of vintage ENTOMBED, you'll find much to sink into here. If you long for a post-'90s death metal band with real character, songwriting skills, and a sound that is authentically 1990 without having a shred of the dreaded retro syndrome, Requiem Of The Apocalypse is your savior.
Rooted in the late '80s in terms of tempos, production and a large doses of melancholy, RUNEMAGICK takes all the good from those days, splices out any generic elements, and injects some subtly progressive ideas into just about every tune. Take "Temple Of Skin", which begins well enough with a dry death heave, but it's the snaky, melodic guitar line wound into the midsection that lifts it higher. Then there's the fried AUTOPSY-meets-SAINT VITUS riff that opens "Funeral Caravan". It grows into a desolate doom epic from there and is the perfect indicator of RUNEMAGICK's signature sound. The choir-of-the-morbid in "The Secret Alliance" is a nice dramatic touch that adds another level of depth to the album. And here's something you don't hear every year: a real death metal anthem in "One Road To Megiddo". Maybe not the best track on the album in terms of clever ideas, but its simplistic dirge crawl is somehow very catchy, containing a chorus that manages to push all the right buttons in the memory banks. Best of all, this album is soooo Swedish sounding, but without that kind of speed and completely devoid of any copycat we're-more-ENTOMBED-than-you-are stuff. And whaddya know? They are Swedish. They probably dig GOREMENT a whole lot, and more power to 'em.
No keyboards, no female voices, no ProTools or overprocessed squishy sounds, just big massive tunes that remind you of when PARADISE LOST was death metal and when AUTOPSY had yet to disappoint with Shitfun. In other words: great stuff. Despite the comparisons to others, the band (Rudolfsson on guitar and vocals, Emma Karlsson on bass, Fredrik Johnsson on guitar, Daniel Moilanen on drums) whip up something very much their own. The only real downer is the album's length. It's too long. At a hefty 63 minutes, they could've pared it down by three or four songs to offer a stronger, more consistent record. But still, this is a surprise out of nowhere, with a vibe you'll never realized you missed so much until you hear it again here. It'll be hard finding it in Tower Records, so consult your local import shop or any reputable mail order distro.