Review: “Dualism” by Millhaven

Why does a band change it’s name? There are a whole myriad of reasons from style shifts, line up changes and a desire not to play older material through to legal battles with other bands over who owns the name. What is clear however is that while Belgian Melodic Death Metal quintet Millhaven have rebranded from The Curse Of Millhaven they consider that the only thing that has changed for them. That means “Dualism” is their fourth album since forming in 2012 and having celebrated a decade of destruction with performances at Graspop Metal Meeting and Ieperfest, they’re not looking back in anger. Recorded and mixed at Breeze inc. studio by Bob Briessinck (Warbringer, Arson, Carnation) and mastered at Project Zero Studio by Yarne Heylen (Sisters Of Suffocation, When Plagues Collide, Nervosa), the album has a central theme of mental health with eight fierce cuts based around a concept of heart vs. mind, A vs. B and positive vs. negative…

…while they call themselves a Melodic Death Metal band, anyone who has heard any of the previous works of Millhaven will know that in truth their sound resides on the heavier, darker side of the genre. Far from the Slipknot cover that a casual passer by might expect, “Duality” is in fact a 71 second instrumental introduction piece that serves to clear the mind with heavy riffs and a serious weigh of sound. A warning that a storm is coming, if it’s one you don’t heed then the Blackened Death Metal of “Hellfire” will absolutely annihilate. A rampage through the darkness with demonic vocals from Jasper Lobelle alongside high quality blasting from drummer Bart Rambour, its the kind cut that demonstrates what Millhaven are all about – past, present and future. Razor sharp riffing threatens to descend into American Metalcore circa 2003 or transcend to Deathcore at various points but cleverly the band stick to task and get violently aggressive with it. That turbulence continues into “Day By Day” which has tasteful melodic lead parts that float above the bludgeoning percussive battery as the rhythm section threaten to tear the listener apart from the eardrums out. Backing vocals from bassist Bram Dewilde give contrast with shriller tones to those of Lobelle, the dirge laden riffs and brutal final breakdown a tour de force of modern Death Metal. An obvious single with Lobelle harnessing his inner Randy Blythe for the vocal performance “Bearer Of Light” is the pièce de résistance of the first half of the album. It stands out like a torch light in the darkness, the culmination of everything the band has done leading to this point. The melodies are rich, the vocals vicious and the opportunity for clean singing passed up with an evil grin…

Axe wielding duo Kurt Mylle and Jeroen Debruyne have a field day with down tuned chugged guitars as “Heartless” batters the skull like a prize fighter, the band opting for an almost spoken word element during the melodic parts of an otherwise vicious little ditty that does zero to sixty in less than a second. A headbangers delight with a scream-a-long chorus, a warm solo is cleverly worked so as not to get too virtuoso or flamboyant. Released as a single in June 2022 “Maze” might have been out of the running to appear on this album if it wasn’t for the fact that it is the perfect fit. A brutal cut lyrically in keeping with the concept, it was probably the starting point for the cryptic writings that evolved into the album. Sumptuous leads shine with the restless and relentless drumming providing covering fire, the sense of melody at its heart key to the dynamic and Burden Of Thoughts” is very similar in those respects. Going straight for the jugular with the kind of introspective lyrics that could find the straight jacket and padded room calling for Lobelle, this one has that “Wrath” era Lamb Of God vibe about it and absolutely crushes. Sonically “Aspire” shines with vibrant guitars leading the way, a short and yet oh so sweet grand finale that screams for release from the mental chains we wrap ourselves up in in a way that everyone can relate. A powerful statement piece of a record that builds on the foundations of everything that came before it with a few fresh ideas, “Dualism” is an album of high quality cuts with instant appeal. Like a dime store page turning thriller novel, you may find this one hard to put down… [8/10]

Track Listing

  1. Duality
  2. Hellfire
  3. Day By Day
  4. Bearer Of Light
  5. Heartless
  6. Maze
  7. Burden Of Thoughts
  8. Aspire

Dualism” by Millhaven is out 1st March 2024 via Genet Records and is available over at bandcamp

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