|Musical Style: Metal/Hard Rock||Produced By: Torbjörn Weinesjö|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2016||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 9||Rating: 65%|
Cell 9 is the answer for all things multifarious metal and hard rock. Initial impression upon listening to The Devil’s Feast, the Cell 9 independently released fall of 2016 debut full length, is of another traditional metal act, but that would only be telling part of the story in that there is much more to the group than musically meets the eye. What I also hear in Cell 9, for instance, are strong aspects of doom metal and straightforward hard rock not to mention decided power metal, stoner groove and even Gothic to industrial leanings. Yes, a lot of variety and a little bit of something for everyone, but if I were to pigeonhole Cell 9 it might be the technical metal of The Seventh Power joined with the experimental flavorings to System Breakdown, the turn of the century side project of Carl Johan Grimmark (Narnia). Season to taste with some European flavorings not unlike Narnia and resonant vestiges that hint of Nomad Son and the picture is complete.
The Cell 9 origin traces to the new material composed by veteran guitarist Torbjörn Weinesjö following the demise of Veni Domine, the highly regarded progressive to operatic to doom metal act in which he recorded seven albums over a twenty-year period. Initially reconnecting with former band mate and bassist Niklas Wilhelmsson (Disciples, Bishop Caps) subsequent to a chance meeting in Sollentune, Sweden, he later rounded out the Cell 9 line up upon recruiting brother and Veni Domine drummer Thomas Weinesjö. The newly formed power trio to started work on The Devil’s Feast recording sessions at its ‘room number 9’ rehearsal place, the same location that Veni Domine recorded its final album Light from 2014. Hence, the inspiration behind the Cell 9 moniker chosen by these three new ‘cell mates’.
Cell 9 could not be more different musically from Veni Domine, particularly when factoring how Torbjörn handles lead vocals with a smooth and mid-ranged delivery as opposed to the at times high-end and soaring and at others lower register style of Veni Domine front man Fredrik Sjöholm. It would be accurate to say, as a result, that Torbjörn’s earthier approach is better suited for the straight on metal and hard rock inclining that Cell 9 brings to the table. Same from a guitar standpoint in that Cell 9 proves all around heavier, with Torbjörn’s assertive riffs playing a decided role in this capacity when placed alongside the sleeker Veni Domine sounds. The greater groove driven bass enhanced underpinnings of Wilhelmsson helps further separate Cell 9 from its more intricate predecessor.
Opening cut “Under My Skin” gives prominence to all things that work with Cell 9, including freight train like guitars (that leave little doubt as to how Torbjörn is more than just a progressive guitarist) and a fortifying low-end presence (as found in Thomas’ dominant timekeeping abilities). The upshot is the larger than life doses of hook and groove that define what I find by far the albums best track.
“Devil’s Feast” is another strong contender. What we have here is a number in which Cell 9 draws upon pronounced doom metal facets, reinforcing the ominously swarthy with its portent vestiges but also taking pleasure in the anthem like from the demonstrative riff presence that plays every bit the profound role. I cannot help but be reminded of a more accessible Pÿlon with hearty touches of Nomad Son thrown in.
Cell 9 takes a traditional metal heading on “A Burning Haze”. This one elevates guitars and bass to even higher levels - if you can imagine that - with the upshot the unremitting brawn that showers the songs verses. My favorite part, however, is the chorus, which features a rapid-fire vocal delivery reminiscent to the classic Alice Cooper cut “Brutal Planet” (off the album of the same name from 2000). Lone complaint is that the song fades out too early at three and a half minutes in lacking an instrumental section (more on this later).
Narnia like power metal characterizes “Touch The Sky”. By far the albums most up-tempo, the song ups energy levels exponentially - almost to the point of speed metal - with its ferocious assault of unceasing riffs and low end of a high-strung capacity. Interestingly, “Touch The Sky” makes intermittent time changes to slower passages in which hulking bass holds sway. Torbjörn shines with a ton of heart and charisma vocally (he reminds of original Leviticus front man Håkan Andersson but smoother and with greater range and control to his delivery).
The Gothic influenced opening to “Save Me” starts airy and ethereal to distorted guitars prior to it launching at once to the commanding rhythm guitars that carry its driving verses. As impetus trails off, the song descends into the doom-ish ambience to its rumbling refrain in which ominous backing vocals highlight the grave scene. Momentum briefly picks up for the “Save Me” instrumental moments.
I find The Devils Feast to drop off musically over its final four tracks- no, not a steep plunge over a cliff but a noticeable descent nonetheless. It begins with “Apocalypse Calls”, a medium to good hard rocker with an implicit sense of bass guitar driven groove. While far from bad, the song also struggles to garner my full attention due to its lack of noticeable hooks, at least in comparison to the more standout material here. Of note is how it features one of the albums few guitar solos.
“Seasons Change” also loses me from coming across a bit too plain for my taste - particularly from a chorus standpoint - with the upshot a slight receptiveness distinctive to the song. Otherwise, what we have here is another portent mauler that embraces the doom-like with its trenchant underpinnings and plodding riff action.
“Intertwined” represents an improvement with some cool faster to slower time signatures and tasteful riff action, not to mention albums best enticing guitar solo from Torbjörn. Lone problem, however, is that “Intertwined” ends too abruptly at just over three minutes (add another minute and it would potentially rank with the first five).
“When Worlds Collide” as another fast paced whirlwind not unlike “Touch The Sky”, which points to the problem at hand: Despite the song being not bad musically, do we need to end the album to another speed metal romp? Cell 9 possess so much versatile potential it would be interesting if they had explored different musical territory instead, such as blues based hard rock, acoustic rock or again touch upon the melodic groove to “Under My Skin”, which works so well with its sound.
Beyond the fact The Devil’s Feast would benefit from more hooks (at least on several key tracks), I also found it bereft from an instrumental standpoint. Veni Domine fans know firsthand Torbjörn is a more than above the line talent on guitar; hence, I cannot help but think the majority of the albums songs would improve if they had included some effective guitar soloing. I hate to harp on the issue but let’s face facts: a hard rock song without a guitar solo is like a hot dog without mustard or burger without the bun. They go hand in hand, right?
In direct relations are how a few too many of The Devil’s Fest songs come in at around three to three and a half minutes each. My thought is that with the greater emphasis on instrumental proclivity the group potentially might have extended several shorter tracks into much more satisfying four-minute territory instead. Further compounding matters is that The Devil’s Feast features just nine songs- so there is not a great deal of music to go around in the first place. I do not expect a group to record every song in its repertoire and understand that good songs do not necessarily grow on trees, but I also feel to 10 to 11 songs (minimum) is a good place to start in terms of creating the better balanced release overall.
On the upbeat, production is excellent with a heavy drum sound, even heavier guitars and plenty of bass slithering amidst the low end. I also like the grey tinted cover art, which fits the darker and moody nature to the Cell 9 musical complexion. Lone complaint is that since The Devil’s Feast is only available as a download I have no lyrics in which to go into detail (as befitting downloaded music, all I received were the music files- not even any liner notes).
Cell 9 exhibits a great deal of potential on The Devil’s Feast but struggle to fulfill said potential. Without doubt, you will find your share of great songs here - “Under My Skin”, “Devils Feast”, “Touch The Sky” and “Save Me” rank with my favorites - but also several that leave somewhat desired. Whereas I understand that Cell 9 are a young band and in the process of carving its musical niche, it would also benefit from a bit more musical consistency not to mention making its instrumental sound (lead guitar in particular) a bigger priority. That said production stands out as a strong point as does musicianship, with Torbjörn proving a natural vocal fit from a hard rock standpoint. I look forward to hearing the musical growth that Cell 9 makes on its follow up sophomore release.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: ”Under My Skin” (3:26),”Devil’s Feast” (4:34), ”A Burning Haze” (3:34), ”Touch The Sky” (4:07), ”Save Me” (4:13), ”Apocalypse Calls” (3:23), ”Seasons Change”(5:00), ”Intertwined” (3:12), ”When Worlds Collide” (4:17)
Torbjörn Weinesjö - Lead Vocals & Guitars
Niklas Wilhelmsson - Bass
Thomas Weinesjö - Drums