by MythofRock

Don’t try to count the uncountable; the seeds of Swedish melo-death are so many, especially in Central and Northern Europe, that any effort to quantify the influence of this majestic genre outside its homeland’s borders is purposeless. In Germany, among the seeds that were sown after (or during) the prosperous period of Swedish bands, we encounter Burden of Grief. Many of you may not be aware of their name and whereabouts, but they aren’t newcomers. Founded in 1994 and active in discography since 2000, they’ve been loyal to the Scandinavian tradition without changing their sound substantially.

Actually, they aren’t among the bands that have made significant breakthroughs or contributions; their mark isn’t indelible. Since their inception, Burden of Grief have placed themselves exactly where proper melo-death is, adhering to the teachings of In Flames, Soilwork or Dark Tranquillity without deviating significantly from their influences (you may find a minor exception in the heavy-metal-originated, exhilarating “Unchained”). Hence, the band’s rather homogenized material aligns well with your perceptions of the genre.

“Destination Dystopia” occurred at the end of 2023, five years after “Eye of the Storm”. The band, refreshed by the recruitment of two new members (Dominik Hellmuth on guitars and Manuel Lüke on drums), present their tried-and-tested recipe: a blend of powerful melodic death, enriched with occasionally groovy thrash-o-riffs when they decide to step on the gas. Evidently, the years since their last effort allowed them to focus on guitar duties, resulting in improved melodies compared to the preceding work, all while conveying the pessimism of lyrical themes (a dystopic reality).

Of course, I shouldn’t hide behind my finger; the album sounds familiar, especially to ears accustomed to the cold, Nordic tradition. You won’t find hidden secrets or unexpected surprises. Burden of Grief combine adeptly the classic melo-death with thrash elements (“World Under Attack”, “Downfall”), forming rather typical compositions with ample roughness and aggression, balanced by melancholic melodies. The refrains and twin-guitar solos showcase good and appealing riffing work, even in compositions that lack noteworthy structure, while the solid, strong rhythm section ties everything together. All these are complemented by Mike Huhmann’s harsh, not-so-guttural vocals, which fit perfectly with the band’s stuff and approach.

Heaviness and anger are intensified in mid-tempo tracks like “A Daydream of Sorrow” and “The Devil’s Bride”, while “Fevered Dreams” stands out as a powerful idea, combining all the elements the Germans use. Another peak is encountered in the concluding “My Suicide”, where a 90s-originated melancholic aura contrasts effectively with the strong Scandinavian foundation. Probably, the band explored more thoroughly their capacity to write stirring themes in that ending, making me wish for similar ideas throughout the album. Considering the majestic cover art, my expectations for more darkness and desperation were only partly satisfied (except for the album’s conclusion).

Listening to “Destination Dystopia” repeatedly reveals the band’s technical abilities, angry death riffs and emotional melodies. The album strikes a perfect balance between aggression and sentimentalism, showcasing the band members’ knowledge of the genre. All these are highlighted by the balanced production that makes the album tight, concise and deep, enhancing the listening experience.

“Destination Dystopia” marks a successful return for Burden of Grief. However, despite its positive attributes, it will not make a difference. While it has power and energy, its impact might not be long-lasting. Sooner or later, you’ll move on, but in this journey, you’ll retain some points of excellence from the album. In any case, the fans of the genre -especially the newcomers- will find plenty of pleasure.

♦ 7/10

Alex Nikolaidis

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