Burned In Effigy, a Neo-classical Melodic Death Metal band from Chicago, weave a sublime meld of classical and progressive elements into their tracks. The result makes their debut full length, Rex Mortem, a stunning and essential listen.
Burned In Effigy – Rex Mortem (Independent release)
Release Date: 28 January 2022
Words: Jools Green
They released their instrumental debut EP Terrestrial in 2017, and since then, there has been one major addition to Rex Mortem, recruiting Mark “Smedy” Smedbron on vocals, who brings a superb, multifaceted angle with his “multi” vocal delivery that sits so well with the other complex aspects of the sound.
Older fans need not fear either. Having tracked down some of that EP, I can reassure you if you ever doubted or needed telling, all that you loved about Terrestrial is still here. Just bigger and better, particularly now vocals have been added.
“We are psyched to present our debut album, Rex Mortem,” the band said about their new album, “a catalogue of the first chapter of the band. This has been in the works for a long time, and we couldn’t be more pleased with how it has turned out.
“The songs vary in complexity and intensity and demonstrate our growth as a band since its inception. Listeners will hear influences such as The Black Dahlia Murder and The Human Abstract, combining our love for Death Metal and progressive/neo-classical Metal. The vocals are gritty and tense, and the lyrics emphasize this with dark tales inspired by mythology, history, and classic literature.
“Many of the songs follow the story of a tyrannical king aiming to expand his power and influence, who ends up being brought down by his closest allies. We believe our album has something for all Metal fans, regardless of preferred subgenre.”
The album also incorporates a few spruced up old tracks along with the new ones, including Nightfall which was one of the band’s first songs.
“We experimented with multiple different styles with some songs that were written after Nightfall,” bassist Matt Watkins told MetalTalk, “but kept coming back to that neo-classical, dark sound. The lyrical themes of Dracula, along with Smedy’s vocals, fit right in with the song’s mood and inspired us to do a lyric video incorporating scenes from Nosferatu.
“The alternation between tight muted riffing and open, harmonized melodies felt natural once we incorporated it into our repertoire. Smedy’s vocals fit right in, and the lyrics illustrated the apocalyptic feel of the song and tied into the ongoing lyrical story we told through the rest of the album.”
As the band have mentioned, Rex Mortem is wonderfully varied, from every aspect, each track different, in terms of keys and time signatures.
It’s also an easy listen. It doesn’t need repeated plays to get into, only to discover more, thanks to a melodic flow and progressive groove that balances against the harsh vocal delivery and technical complexities, which, in themselves, are also very easy on the ear too.
Rex Mortem is also a hugely engaging listen, which leaves the listener stunned and impressed by the sheer skill set involved and flawless delivery. I love how even when the lyrics lean towards darker, more bleak concepts, the music suggests brightness and optimism giving a clever balance in that respect.
End to end, this is such a well thought out album. I love and am in awe of each track, but there are a few that draw me in a little closer.
Firstly, the track that started the main storyline for this album, Doomsayer, where the world is burning while a tyrannical king watches from high with contempt. It’s fast and technical but superbly engaging, varying in pace with a reflective mid-point reflective drop that builds again with a superb swath of very technical leadwork.
“Doomsayer was a song we wrote not long after our debut EP,” Matt Watkins said, “and really became the core of our sound moving forward. It incorporated more themes from Death Metal while retaining its balance with melody, allowing for more aggression to come through in the music.”
Then there is my absolute favourite, Nightfall, lyrically based on the tales of Vladimir Dracula and Count Orlok (Nosferatu). I was won over right from the clean, neo-classical guitar opener, which is then reflected in the ensuing melodic backbone to the track, bolstered by chugging riffs and the odd breakthrough of the bass work. The dual vocal delivery is superb, adding a dark foreboding quality. It’s an absolute earworm of a track that I can’t get enough of.
“Nightfall is a song we’ve been playing since the inception of the band,” bassist Matt Watkins said, “and we felt it needed to be re-recorded for this album with vocals. Though we’ve progressed our songwriting and technicality since writing it and first recording it in 2017, this song has been a cornerstone of our sound.”
Hades, where the lyrics illustrate the king’s descent to the afterlife, is very up-tempo and punchy. Superbly varied but with a superb flow to the shifts, the lovely bass lines and drum rhythms weave precisely around the riffs. The second half soaring emotive leadwork offers superb contrast and is reflected again towards the close.
Atlas, which opens on spiralling riffs that immediately grab your attention, has bouncy basslines, an uplifting melody and soaring leadwork. Inspired by the Atlas figure from mythology who carried the world on his shoulders, you won’t feel like you are carrying anything on your shoulders after listening. It’s such an uplifting, groovy gem of a track.
Finally, Vendetta, apparently one of the first songs written by the band, is also very up-tempo and superbly lead driven in the most catchy manner imaginable.
Available as a digital download from BurnedInEffigy.bandcamp.com. Physical copies will be available soon. Keep an eye out on the band’s Facebook page.