Artist: Van Diemen
Album: Sarcophilus Laniarius
Release Date: August 1st 2022
Location: Kiel, Germany
Personally, I’ve never been the biggest fan of melodic death metal as a genre, aside from several amazing exceptions, particularly early to mid-90s stuff. For me death metal needs a certain level of filth, distortion, and aggression to it and for the most part melodic death metal just doesn’t deliver enough of it to work for me. However, every now and then I stumble across a band that challenges that norm and draws me back in to the genre. Key example of this would be Paths of Possession, Kataklysm, Ghost Brigade and now Van Diemen.
With its latest album the German solo project has given us a truly solid slab of melodic yet powerful death metal. To thank for this amazing offering, we have primary member Patrick Schmidt and vocalist Wild Eye of Majak who is easily one of the most commanding and captivating vocalists I’ve heard in recent memory and makes an unstoppable force alongside Patrick, who happens to be a highly competent musician and song writer. Majak’s vocals tower over catchy, well written riffs and unfold into songs that will be stuck in your head for days, making the album a must listen.
For me what makes the album worth your time is as mentioned Patrick’s vocals. They’re impressively commanding and have a huge amount of power behind them, delivering just enough raw edge while remaining incredibly easy to understand. They sit high in the mix, towering over the album and keeping your focus consistently. There’s just enough use of layering and effects applied to keep things interesting without them ever feeling overproduced.
Instrumentally the album is a top tier example of melodic death metal that remains catchy and riff laden without being too clean or overproduced. The guitar tone definitely has a crispness to it in parts, but it retains a certain level of crunch and bite in others. The drum work serves its purpose and adding some solid rhythm and energy, but the guitar is the star here. The instrumentals are clearly written around the vocal passages though, this structuring is fairly apparent, but really works in the album’s favour. In saying that I don’t want you to think that they’re an afterthought, as that is definitely not the case, they’re well written and performed expertly.
I have to give some props in the originality department too with the band name and album names and art. It’s a one of a kind find seeing a German band naming itself after the colonial name of the island of Tasmania prior to 1825. It’s a solid concept to base an extreme metal project on given the harshness and brutality of the place at the time, serving as an inescapable penal colony. The choice to then theme each album around a different native Tasmanian animal takes the concept one step further, with Sarcophilus Laniarius being the scientific name for the Tasmanian devil; and following the previous album art that featured a thylacine.
As far as favourite tracks go, Blackened Wheel and Immovable are my top two picks. Each feature some impressively catchy riffs but the vocal performance and the song writing are what really pushes these over the line for me. There are some verses on these tracks that have been stuck in my head since first hearing them.
Overall, the album is a solid offering of melodic death metal and one that I highly recommend to fans of the genre. I also suggest that death metal fans who general don’t listen to this type of music give this a try.
Listen to and order the album: