ALBUM REVIEW: MAJESTIES - VAST REACHES UNCLAIMED
MINNESOTANS SALUTE THE CRACKLING ENERGY OF EARLY MELODEATH
The mid-90s Gothenburg Sound has cast a long shadow for good and bad. In the beginning, it was an intoxicating brew of seething underground death metal distilled with soaring triumphal melody. That sounds a confoundingly simple idea in 2023 but, at the time it was novel and, when on point, it could be epic and adrenalizing. And right there in the epicentre playing in low key dives in Scandinavia and Europe were the originators such as Dark Tranquility and In Flames. The latter’s trilogy of releases in the 90s (The Jester Race, Whoracle, and Colony) are seen as the high-tide mark. Thereafter In Flames edged into more accessible, often confused, territory. Even a cursory listening of Vast Reaches Unclaimed tells you Majesties are essentially what many metal fans wish In Flames would be again. This is so 90s Gothenburg melodeath you can almost smell the stains of Norrlunds Guld Export on your faded At the Gates long sleeve.
The headlong rampages on the opener In Yearning, Alive or The World Unseen are firework displays of rushing melodies that Steve Harris would have paid good money for. In fact, one of the strongest dimensions of Majesties’ delivery is the fluorescent twin leads with their truly rousing and heroic melodies. The record overspills with them and they carry you off like a magic carpet. Often the harmonies and tunefulness have an unashamedly vintage NWOBHM / power metal finesse of reach-for-the-sky triumphalism. It’s high-energy with a galloping passionate and uplifting quality.
But don’t worry because, yes, it is heavy too. The percussion has an energetic and precise presence with double kicks and hyperactive fills while the crunchy riffs are banging and meaningful. The vocals are right out of the feral, scorched earth death metal text book with a vast reaches uncleaned (see what we did there?). Majesties can dial up the heaviosity stakes with the likes of Across the Neverwhen if you want random example.
This poses the existential, and rather awkward, question of what do Majesties bring other than a piece of barnstorming melodeath nostalgia? They reboot and recharge the Gothenburg sound and if this album had been released in the mid-90s, then Majesties would have been slamdunk scene heroes. But we are 25 years along and, aside from modern production values, this is a style that was originated by others in a time gone by and copied by others in subsequent years. It leaves Majesties open to potential charges of plagiarism or imitation. That could be countered, however, by the sheer gusto and energy in which Majesties invest in their craft. There is a palpable sense of heartfelt sincerity in their play which has a undeniable buoyancy which would put a firecracker up the arses of some recent performances of the scene illuminati.
Check out Majesties here: https://listen.20buckspin.com/album/vast-reaches-unclaimed