With powerful vocals and solid instrumentation, The Unholy

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Have you ever wondered what early Soundgarden with a post-grunge twist would sound like? Then look no further than Backwater’s latest album: The Unholy.

Backwater

Photo by Patrick Sälle

From the very first track, titled “Fog,” Backwater vocalist Björn Wennerborg demonstrates the sheer dexterity and versatility of his voice; his vocal talents extend far beyond high notes, as his unbelievable control over his instrument really acts as the centrepiece for the entire album. Such an intricate vibrato is a rarity in the alternative metal scene, and I only wish that such vocal prowess was even more prevalent throughout the album (Track 9, “Scars” and Track 8, “Hurricane” display the true extent of Backwater’s vocal talent). The near flawless audio mixing allows for the vocals to rarely become overpowered by the powerful drums and guitar riffs, which gives a refined sound to entire album.

Thomas Kihlberg’s guitar playing combos well with Wennerborg’s clean vocals, and sets up the pounding riffs that really drive home the raw energy of the album. The simplicity of the guitar playing may be a turnoff for some, but the unorthodox rhythms in almost every song are enough to provide variety to the tracklist. The diversity of the tracks on the album ensures that they don’t all blend together into one mass of sound, which was an unfortunate weakness that was prevalent in Backwater’s prior album, Revenge. Luckily for Backwater, a lack of song diversity is one complaint that you’d be hard pressed to justify when reviewing The Unholy, as each track does a good job at standing out from the rest. Despite this, I would have personally liked to see a bit more shredding to compliment this new found diversity, as a raw blast of energy is released on the few occasions that Kihlberg lets loose on lead guitar (Track 10, “Grace” and Track 9, “Scars” are particularly riveting instrumentally).

BackwaterThe thought that went into every technical choice on the album is truly admirable. The flavour of the day is “clarity,” and sound engineer Thomas “Plec” Johansson makes sure that there isn’t a single sound on the album that isn’t specifically meant to enhance a song. The meticulous precision with which the album was put together is commendable, but I only wish that the lyrical content wasn’t such a mixed bag. If you were to ask me for the meaning behind most of the songs on the tracklist, I’d have to shrug in response—the vagueness of the lyrics allows them to be applied to such a wide variety of circumstances that it’s difficult to tell exactly what is meant to be invoked. I can’t hold Backwater at too much of a fault for this though, as while their tracks don’t have much deeper meaning lyrically, they more than make up for it with their raw energy and talent.

If the idea of Soundgarden with a post-grunge spin sparks your interest, then I would definitely give The Unholy a listen, as the vocal quality and heavy instrumentation of the album are sure to make an impact in the alternative metal and hard rock scenes alike.

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