15 February 2010
by Tom Dare
Who says American bands have all the best riffs? Who says British bands can’t bring the groove as well as their counterparts from across the pond? Those who do clearly have not listened to Sworn Amongst’s second record Severance – either that or they have assumed they are from California, rather than Hull.
Following on from their highly promising debut, And So It Begins, should have been hard, but if Severance represents what Sworn Amongst can do when faced with the “difficult second album”, then thought of what their truly capable of is staggering. On this evidence, they are a band heading for genuine greatness.
Kicking off with the title track, it is immediately apparent that the aggression has been ramped up along with the pace. Even more impressive though, is the sheer volume of brilliant ideas bursting out of your speakers. The first thirty seconds alone contains three distinctly different riffs – pure, pounding heaviness gives way to a faster, thrashier riff before going into stunning groove. The entire album follows a similar pattern; songs are built not on singular ideas padded out by solos and breakdowns but by a multitude of riffs, licks and solos that demand your attention for the duration of this outstanding record.
While And So It Begins was highly reminiscent of Unearth, particularly of 2004’s The Oncoming Storm, but with repeat listens, the diversity of Sworn Amongst’s influences becomes apparent. The driving power groove is the overriding style, drawing obvious comparisons with Lamb Of God. The feel is very different though – more grimy and stomping than the pure violence of the Virginians’ atmosphere. Lead lines reminiscent of early Testament rub shoulders with duelling guitars that suggest The Blackening may have been played on the tour bus before they nod in the direction of Judas Priest.
The musicianship is thoroughly impressive all the way through. Adding to this is a dirt-under-the-fingernails grubbiness that keeps the multitude of ideas from feeling aloof or pretentious. The production is spot on too- the songs have not been polished and Pro-Tool’ed until all character has been removed.
The vocals are aggressive, percussive shouts rather than the scream currently so popular- somewhere between Lou Koller of Sick Of It All and Robb Flynn on Burn My Eyes. The complete absence of a put-on American accent aids the gruff power evoked- most obviously on ‘Exploited (Systematically)’, where the shorter English vowel sounds add punch to a weighty chorus.
Watch the video to ‘And So It Begins’ by Sworn Amongst. It’s not actually on this album, but hey
Some albums stack the best songs right at the start, so that by the time you get to track six, the attention is waning as the hooks disappear. Severance does not let up for one moment- some of the best tracks are at the end, and as the pounding drums and rolling groove of closing track ‘Numb’ fade into nothing, you are left with an inescapable need to go back to the beginning and experience this stunning record again. Sworn Amongst have well and truly set the bar for British metal in 2010. The other rising stars of the UK scene are going to have to up their game to live with an album of this quality.
Severance is laden with pounding riffs that ooze groove, smoking solos and more ideas per song than most bands manage in whole albums. Delivering on their early promise in spectacular fashion, and on this evidence Sworn Amongst are capable of being absolutely fucking huge.
Sounds like: Lamb Of God, Testament, Unearth
Top Tracks: Severance, Exploited (Systematically), The Storm
Sworn Against – Severance tracklisting:
Out Of Line (Scathing Injustice)
Scratch The Surface