Grim Observations: Rifftera – Pitch Black (2015)

Rifftera are a melodic death metal four-piece that look like they might fit well in a pop video. Let’s just be thankful that they’re not doing that and have decided to play what is a very intriguing take on melodic death metal. Not only is the guitar work brilliant (especially in the solo category – you’ve got to listen to this!) but the clean vocals on this record are absolutely remarkable. I’m reminded of wonderful vocalists like Garm and ICS-Vortex when I hear these cleans, and this is absolutely no exaggeration on my part. I have no idea who this guy is, but he could make a solo album with and I’d recommend it to you. Another thing I need to mention about these guys are their tight keyboards. I mean, keyboards aren’t everything in a band; but when they’re done this well, one might overlook some of the more trodden steps they take in terms of their tunes. The listener can expect more than your necessary required dose of chug and rough grunts, but somehow the clean vocal element is just so damn powerful that I’ve completely sidestepped, especially when the keyboards and guitar begins to dazzle. Soilwork’s Bjorn “Speed” Strid also makes an appearance here, where remarkably; both he and the band’s amazing backup singer are featured using clean vocals. The guy was good already, and now he’s go Bjorn Strid backing him? Sign me up for this! Be sure to sign yourself up for this listen as well. Keep in mind that Bjorn Strid also has a phenomenal act where he performs a much cleaner style of vocal in a classic/prog rock setting called The Night Flight Orchestra. Well, maybe the clean singer here will be able to make a guest appearance on their next one. He deserves it, as the man can sing a heck of a lot better than I can. Take “Ashes Fall” (7:03) for example. Sure, you hear some pretty stable riffs at first, but nothing special. Then there’s that moment where the man just explodes and my head right with him. Following that, we’ve got the most beautiful moonlit solo I’ve heard in a while. You just get that sort of night time feel, which I only really thought I could get from Soilwork. All this aside, I still have no idea what the “Rifftera” here refers to. Most metalheads would think it’s a reference to riffs in Pantera, and while I’ll admit that “Cemetery Gates” is indeed a beautiful fucking song, these guys sound absolutely nothing like Pantera. If there’s any band that I feel needs a name change, it’s these guys. They just need something more than fits their sound. But this is all a minor gripe and it does not take away from the sound and amazement that is Rifftera. But before you even decide to check out any other song from this record, I’d highly recommend listening to “Ashes Fall.” It’s a long one, but it delivers. I feel we’re looking at the makings of something really phenomenal right here and would highly recommend giving it a listen.

(8 Tracks, 53:00)

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