One Without - Sweet relief 3/5
2. Forget your pride
5. Accusing eyes
6. Souls of thousands
7. Sweet relief
8. Spit it out
9. Nothing on you
10. Burned once again
12. A bright new insight
13. Open wound
14. Burning with your hopes and dreams
15. Leaving traces
16. Stained with your words
17. This is war
After a long persistence, Sweden’s One Without released their debut CD ‘Thoughts of a secluded mind’ back in 2009, 6 years after forming the band. With a few line-up changes between 2003 and 2009, One Without elected to go with female vocalist Catrin Feymark to lead out front. The gothic/dark metal group’s first release was quite solid and above average to that of a typical debut CD, receiving fairly good reviews and overall positive reviews.
2 years later, One Without have returned to the scene to deliver their 2nd CD, entitled ‘Sweet relief’. Again there has been some line-up changes, with original drummer Olle Töpel and original bassist Kristofer Bergman leaving the band. Töpel was replaced by Joseph Astorga, however he quickly moved on from the band just after a few weeks and he was replaced by current drummer Oscar Nilsson. Bassist Bergman was replaced by Joni Kaartinen. Both new members have slotted in quite well and the band has gelled rather quickly.
While the first CD was released through Lifeforce Records, One Without have since parted ways with the label and at the time of this review, ‘Sweet relief’ was to be planned as an independent release. According to the bands website however, the official launch date has been pushed back due to the possibility that another label could be interested in taking them in and distributing the CD. So let’s hope that One Without can find a new label and the CD is released to further parts of the world that which could not be obtained through an independent release.
The main difference with the previous CD I noticed when spinning ‘Sweet relief’ was the slight change of metal style. While the emotional slightly down-tuned guitars still contain that synthetic and depressive feel, One Without have now incorporated other metal forms that has almost, but not completely pushed out any gothic metal sound that was prominent on the debut CD. There’s nothing overtly over the top, just speedier almost metalcore guitar riffs and drum beats thrown in sporadically. It’s kinda difficult to work out just what direction One Without are heading in on this CD, with the numerous styles brought into the mix. While the vocals are not particularly emotional, the lyrics certainly are, containing themes basically surrounding all forms of emotion (e.g. despair, pain, hope, suffering, belief, sadness, etc).
Catrin’s vocals have not changed much in terms of style from the previous CD (but has improved slightly), still singing her monotone style, which does breathe emotion but it still lacks quite a lot for this style of dark/gothic metal. Sounding like a cross between Elise C. Martin and Floor Jansen, Catrin’s style can get stale rather quickly when there’s hardly any change throughout. And that can get even worse when the majority of the songs on the CD all follow the same core style, which is the biggest disappointment on this CD. A 17-track CD is very long indeed and that does not include intro’s/outro’s, interludes or instrumental tracks. Unfortunately almost each track follows the same structured style, which means the listener could lose interest pretty quickly into the CD. With the majority of the tracks spanning around 3:30, there is hardly any depth to the tracks (with exception to a few), nor much diversity either sadly.
The most annoying aspect to this release, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is the use of harsh vocalist (and guitarist) Kenny Boufadene. On the debut, Boufadene’s deathcore screams were used quite sparingly, and thinking back on it now, I cannot remember many tracks with his vocals on it. However on ‘Sweet relief’, Boufadene is used on every track, mostly during the chorus’ and sometimes he gets his own verse(s) to sing. The worst part is that Boufadene’s high-pitched screeches are very irritating and often takes away from what could have been a great song. Putting it nicely, Boufadene at his worst can sound like an eagle being tortured. In small doses I suppose it can be tolerated, but not on every single track on the CD, it’s just too much.
Enough negatives, let’s get on with the positives. The crunchy hard-edged guitar riffs are well done and definitely catchy, still maintaining that depressive gothic sound, even though there is less of it this time round. Out of the 17 tracks on offer, the majority are quite good to excellent; however some should have been left on the editing room floor. Despite some tracks on ‘Sweet relief’ being somewhat repetitive with others, there is still a lot to like on this CD. “Pretender” is different from the bulk of tracks, laden with short but heavy guitar chords and boasting a catchy chorus. There is also a heavy groove metal passage towards the middle before a short guitar solo, which ultimately helps to make this tracks one of the better ones on the CD.
“Burned once again” is another top-notch song, lyrically emotional and mid to fast-paced in speed. The chorus is definitely a memorable one and the track has a simple but effective modern metal guitar riff throughout. “Burning with your hopes and dreams” is quite good, featuring a melodic death metal style riffs and beats, and a heavy but acceptable dosage of harsh screams from Boufadene; while “Stained with your words” keeps your interest due to its constant tempo changes, great guitar riffs and interesting and emotional lyrics. Other tracks on the CD worth mentioning include “Hunger”, “Persistent”, “Accusing eyes”, “Souls of thousands” and “Spit it out”.
In the end, despite a few flaws, mis-steps and growing pains, ‘Sweet relief’ is still a decent CD and the band One Without are finding their legs in the metal world. As it’s only their 2nd release, there is more than enough time to iron out any songwriting issues and find a solid direction to travel along. If you enjoyed their debut, then ‘Sweet relief’ should again be of interest, while dark modern metal/gothic metal fans may also like what One Without has to offer. Overall, I do feel that ‘Sweet relief’ is a step behind their debut, as their constant repetitiveness in their sound can get tedious and 17 tracks of almost the same thing can get rather stale after a while.
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