Torchbearer
Yersinia Pestis

A black metal project featuring members of Unmoored, Incapacity, Solar Dawn, Satariel and Setherial, the bloodlines of Torchbearer are certainly solid, but the results are surprisingly average. Sitting squarely in the blazing but melodic black metal realms shared by Naglfar, Necrophobic and The Legion, Yersinia Pestis (the virus that causes The Black Death) delivers plenty of driving polished riffage and death/thrash metal tinged moments of black metal clarity, but never rises above the quality of any of the members other bands.

There are some entertaining songs on this album and the member’s skill is on display, but as a unit there are no real moments of utter brilliance, just a solid consistency expected from a group of seasoned veterans, and that in itself is a little disappointing. There are no keyboards to embellish Torchbearer’s sound as they rely on razor sharp guitars and the impressive drumming of Henrik Schonstrom to carry the majority of the sound, and as a whole, the delivery is very tight, if formulaic. With Jonas Kjellgren’s Black Lounge Production, you get something close the Marduk wall of noise, except with less bass, as it throbs rather noncommittally rather than blister your skin upon contact.

The songs are your standard black/death thrash affair with some scathing blast beats mixed with a few thrashier mid tempo tunes, both equally adept, but neither really standing out as groundbreaking additions to the genre. After the two up-tempo entertaining but rudimentary openers “Assail the Creation” and “Sown are the Seeds of Death,” Torchbearer deliver the first real mood shift as “Dead Children, Black Rats” is the album’s first truly invigorating track with a an oozing opening and bridges. Standout tracks “Bearer of the Torch” and “Thus Came Dying Unto Kafka” could have come straight from Naglfar’s Diabolical, with their melodic intensity glossed over with a venomous black metal sheen, but by the same token it has an air of “heard it before.” That in itself shouldn’t really put off too any listeners of a genre that lost its originality a long time ago, and Torchbearer are good at what they do, but it makes for an album that never really comes across as a “must have” despite some solid highlights.

Consistency though is a slight issue as the thrash based tracks (“Faith Bled Dry,” “Shorespread God”) don’t blend in as well as the generally more vitriolic blackened material. Only album closer “Failures Dawn” really melds the two styles together with more of a natural feel, still retaining some ferocity. Yersinia Pestis is a purely middle of the road album that might be worth your time should you see it in a used bin somewhere, as it has its moments and is well played and produced. However, when you consider Torchbearer is somewhat of a “supergroup,” and some of the outstanding offerings of the members other projects (namely Unmoored, and Incapacity), I expected far more.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
March 22nd, 2004

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