Pentakill – Smite And Ignite
Reviewed by Graham Henry
I was sitting around the other day, thinking about what would comprise the seventh circle of power metal hell. Midtempo, directionless songwriting, I thought, would be an obvious starting place. A few riffs ripped from the worst of radio hard rock, I continued. Oh, and add a few vocalists that are well past their prime. Of course that’s a must. Oh yeah, and a stupid gimmick. Essential.
Lucky me, that album already exists. Pentakill’s debut album, Smite And Ignite, is just the album I envisioned. It is the amalgamation created when you add the vocals of a long-expired ZP Theart (ex-Dragonforce, I Am I), to the always dreary strains of Jorn Lande, and tack on riffs that sound like they came from any of a thousand modern hard rock bands that have been blasting the airwaves for over a decade now.
Before addressing the music, we need to talk about the 666 pound elephant in the room: the gimmick. Now, I don’t play League Of Legends. I never have, and I probably never will, but I don’t fault people that do. However, this album screams – and loudly – of pandering to a certain crowd. Namely, young adults that play League Of Legends. There are undoubtedly references to the League that I do not understand since I’ve never played the game, so bear with me.
Now, don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with knowing your audience and targeting them. That’s how you sell things. But, music (at least good music) should also have an appeal to those unfamiliar with the gimmick. Here is where Smite And Ignite falls short. If you are looking for some chic gimmick that you can laugh about while playing League Of Legends, then this album is for you. If you’re looking for an album of music worth hearing and repeating over months and years of listening, then this is a big time pass. If you are looking for good heavy or power metal, there are about a hundred albums I could recommend you ahead of this one, just from 2014.
To begin with my criticism, there are only 5 actual songs on this “8 song album.” Three tracks, “Ohmwrecker”, “The Hex Core”, and “Orb Of Winter” are instrumental tracks. Additionally, the complete album itself is only 30 minutes long, so if you take out the instrumentals and the 47 second spoken interlude (which together account for a little less than half of the album), you are left with a mere 16 minutes of music! “Ohmwrecker” itself is a combination metal and electronic track that lasts far too long. The dragging, core-ish riffs do nothing to support the music, and the unfortunately repetitive synths add nothing on top. “The Hex Core” is an even more confusing combination of synthesizers (and not the good, power-metally kind, but the lame, IDM kind). “Orb Of Winter” is what could be considered a highlight – it’s a symphonic instrumental track like you’d hear on any power metal album, but features none of the guitars that bog down virtually every other track on this album.
As for the songs featuring vocals, one of them, “The Prophecy” is just a spoken word track that serves as an introduction into another song. The remaining 4 songs have vocal duties divided amongst ZP Theart (“Deathfire Grasp”, “Last Whisper”), and Jorn Lande (“Lightbringer”, “Thornmail”). These tracks all have something in common: the down-tuned, simplistic “heavy” riffs, the mid-tempo pace, and the alarming lack of catchy vocals. Stylistically, Jorn Lande’s vocals sound ok, but even Jorn fans won’t find much to interest them here, since his vocal melodies never really go anywhere and sound very samey between his two songs. Jorn is at his best (such that it is) when backed by good songwriting, and here he has nothing to work with.
It is also now clear that ZP Theart has nothing left in his vocal tank. His range is significantly limited compared to where it was in his DragonHeart days, and without someone to write him catchy vocal melodies, he just sounds like a shell of his former self (and an uninteresting one at that). In fact, the vocal lines on each of his two songs are so similar that without listening closely, it is hard to tell which song you are even listening to. His delivery is uninspired and dull, and adds nothing to two equally vapid songs.
And that is, perhaps, the biggest problem with this album. The gimmick is overplayed at the total expense of musicianship, which doesn’t even try that hard itself (Again: half an hour of music, and only four real songs). What’s present is directionless, uninteresting, and uninspired. If the band put half as much work into the songwriting as it did into playing League Of Legends, perhaps this album would have received a different score. But until then, this is garbage.
1.25 // 5