Stalwart Manifest of Refusal

Stalwart Manifest of Refusal
A Russian band on a Canadian label playing groove-laden death metal? It's an interesting proposition. Opening cut "The Karma Circle" may have a bad title but it has an insanely nice production sound; it briefly has crappy, "eerie longhair at the bar trying to sing" vocals but also features tons of great, innovative guitar work, so the band are still ahead. By the time second cut "Downgrade Evolution" comes along, it's pretty clear what's happening is a whole lot of Meshuggah worship, but done through a death metal lens. Funny thing is, when Decapitated worshipped Meshuggah, it fell flat; when Stalwart do a similar thing, it ends up having much more energy and life. The vocals are definitely the weak point; they're so bad on "Corrosion" that it almost feels like a parody. But the tunes crush, even if it all becomes a bit oppressive after a while and the listener can quite easily relent under the weight of all this groove, death, groove, death and misery. (PRC)