Deadlock – Hybris (2016) album review

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Hybris makes a powerful opening statement with bludgeoning, thrashy riffs and invigorating screams, but as soon as Margie Gerlitz adds her clean vocals to the mix, all the momentum that Deadlock has succeeded in building up jumps right into the sea. Hybris doesn’t close up shop for good after the awkward mess of Beauty & the Beast-style alt/metalcore that takes up the first four minutes, but the album suffers from many similar stops and starts that break the flow and make it difficult to appreciate the sensible decisions and well-written songs present here.

In the interest of clarifying my complaint, Gerlitz alone does not shoulder responsibility for Deadlock’s sudden tumble off the tracks. She does periodically have trouble finding notes and I can’t say I much fancy her as a lead vocalist, but greater than those issues is Deadlock’s inexpert blending of styles throughout Hybris. “Epitaph” begins in one genre, winds up in another by the sickly-sweet chorus, and never resolves which side the song should throw its weight into. It’s almost as if Deadlock took a bunch of tracks from two different albums, left off all the interesting bits, and then jammed the remains together into a collection that’s too hook-based and toothless to be brutal but too uninspired and tired to be good, poppy fun.

Most of Hybris constitutes run-of-the-mill alternative metal fused with marginally more interesting metalcore interspersed at inopportune times. Deadlock doesn’t want for spirit, but each successive song makes it clearer that the band does lack the writing prowess to sustain a full-length release. The band cleverly keeps the album on its toes by switching between styles whenever one sound has overstayed its welcome, and this approach helps to disguise the general lack of solid ideas here, but only to some extent. By the end, I’m hungry for a real, memorable song that I can sink my teeth into, and nothing on Hybris has enough substance to bring me back of my own volition.

Now and then, Deadlock jumps the tracks into a ripping, moderately technical passage like the ending of “Backstory Wound” or the beautiful voyage that closes out “Blood Ghost.” The opening to “Berserk” and most of “Carbonman” signify that some understanding of more complex music lies dormant within this band, but the breaks in the monotony come too infrequently and don’t carry enough weight to transform Hybris into anything other than a bland, lackluster alternative metal album.

“Ein Deutsches Requiem” might be the album’s high point. Dramatic tension builds through a calm, angelic intro until the song explodes into a wrathful storm that, contrasting with a crystalline chorus that makes sense of many things happening on the rest of the album. For just one song, the mid-2000s pop radio-style gothic-y alt metal and layman’s metalcore evolve into broad-shouldered, symphonic melodeath of a more respectable variety. This glimpse into Deadlock’s potential lasts only a few short minutes, however, abruptly cutting out and, after an uncomfortably long silence, giving way to an all-too-serene, nondescript acoustic interlude.

Once “Welcome Deathrow” rolls around, the album has exhausted what little fuel it had. With so many moods and styles attempted and no great success to claim, Hybris feels a lot longer than the 49 minutes it has no right to take up.