One Man Army And The Undead Quartet - 21st Century Killing Machine
Nuclear Blast
Groovy Gothenthrash
10 songs (47:37)
Release year: 2006
Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Kayla

Two years ago, the world lost an excellent death/thrash band by the name of The Crown. As is sometimes the case when bands die, some of the former members have gone on to rise from the proverbial ashes and found new projects. Closest in spirit to The Crown is Johan Lindstrand with the melodic death/thrash One Man Army And The Undead Quartet.

Before I start discussing 21st Century Killing Machine in-depth, however, I have to say something about the opening. These guys are the biggest fans of the slow buildup I have ever encountered. The first track, Killing Machine, starts off with the first twenty-three seconds consisting of the opening riff at half volume, into another twenty-three seconds of the same riff at full volume, followed by another minute of a slightly mutated version of that riff, and it’s still another twenty seconds until the vocals kick in!

Is there anything here worth sticking around for? Depends on what you’re expecting. If you’re looking for a replacement for The Crown, you’re in for a little disappointment. One Man Army is groovier and hookier than The Crown, although there’s still plenty of aggression and technical ability. This might have been what The Crown would have turned into, given time; less thrash, more groove, more melody. The lyrical content of 21st Century Killing Machine is certainly in line with typical Crown fare, with blasphemy and evil abounding. A few of the songs go a little over-the-top with the “don’t fuck with us” attitude, but are redeemed by Lindstrand’s excellent vocal delivery. Overall, the album strikes a good balance between thrashier and groovier tracks, although the base is Gothenburg style melodic death metal. Still, it’s more brutal than standard Gothenburg melodeath, the melody driven into the riffs like nails in a coffin. On a purely technical level, One Man Army lacks very little; Mikael Lagerblad and Pekka Kiviaho provide excellent guitarwork, Marek Dobrowolski’s (Reclusion) drumming is more than adequate, with a steady, driving beat breaking into interesting fills, and Robert Axelsson giving everything a solid base (pun intended) on which to stand.

However, just as there’s nothing in particular to criticize about the musicianship, neither is there anything that stands out to praise. Having listened to this album more times than I can count, not one song sticks out in my mind. While tracks like Killing Machine and So Grim So True So Real (whose title was possibly inspired by Metallica's ...And Justice For All) succeed in tearing your face off with their pounding riffs and fast solos, they fail to leave a lasting impression. I doubt there will ever come a time when I have a craving that can only be satisfied by One Man Army.

The one thing I can find to criticize is the use of clean vocals. However, these are not clean vocals as most would expect. Instead of breaking into a catchy, singable chorus after a harsh verse, Lindstrand uses what are essentially spoken word passages, sometimes layering them with harsh sung vocals (Behind The Church, Public Enemy No. 1), and sometimes just letting them carry that part of the song (Devil On The Red Carpet); almost every track has at least a little of these spoken word-esque antics, although some have more than others. While this can have interesting results, it gets old real fast; it’s overused here, and leaves the listener annoyed and wishing for a return to Lindstrand’s normal vocals. Quite frankly, it seems counterintuitive not to utilize his growl to the fullest, as it’s one of the best aspects of the album.

One Man Army has a lot of promise. Although it can’t really be called bland (there’s far too much face-shredding and skull-pounding going on for that), it does leave one wishing that they would push themselves just a little bit harder to make a more memorable song. Given Lindstrand’s history, it should be an easy task to create something that grabs the listener by the throat and forces them to pay attention, rather than just being content to batter them a bit and move on. Hopefully they’ll hit a better stride next album.

Killing Songs :
Public Enemy No. 1, So Grim So True So Real
Kayla quoted 79 / 100
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