dlIt’s not hypocritical that the sternest hater of metalcore can guiltlessly enjoy its European cousin, melodic death metal, where prime metal thump veers into catchy hooks and harmony. Sonically, there’s not a lot of real estate separating the two genres, though metalcore is riddled with vague machoisms and boring-ass riffs. Not that melodic death metal is especially adventurous; represented here by one of the several European bands called Deadlock – this one a metal quintet distinguished by their straight-edge vegan politics – MDM is actually conservative to the point of being as intrinsically pop as it is metal.

And that’s a good thing, like Anthrax’s cover of “Got The Time” being on MTV is a good thing, like the pure-pop-structure-meets-sneering-metal-brawn of Overkill’s “Elimination” is a good thing, like the economy of “Peace Sells” and, more recently, Lacuna Coil’s freakishly addictive hooks. Cosmetically, not much about Deadlock and their explosive fourth record, Manifesto, can’t be compared to Lacuna Coil: both boast inventive guitarists constrained by genre convention; both would be well-advised to shed dated nu-metalisms (bubbly down-tuned rhythm guitars and obtrusive electronics, respectively); both feature gifted female singers trading mics with serviceable male counterparts. Shit, both Manifesto and Lacuna Coil’s last record Karmacode close with goth danceclub staples.

Below the surface, Manifesto bears a closer resemblance to Killswitch Engage, though with a less whiny singer. Which is odd being that KsE’s singer is a dude. Anyway, Deadlock does well to avoid straight good cop/bad cop vocals, instead mixing and matching Sabine Weniger’s soaring harmonies with Johannes Prem’s growly counterpoint. (Alert! There is at least one regrettable instance of screamo-style crying!) It’s propulsive, stomping good fun, a great sounding record founded on tight production and adorned with the loud decorum of great songs.

The occasional interchangeable chorus notwithstanding, Weniger is still only the second-best thing about Manifesto; the album’s superstar is guitarist/producer Sebastian Reichl, who must like Spineshank or something for all the aforementioned electronic ch-ch-chowns and bleebles. Elsewhere, Reichl renders Deadlock epic with big, big keyboards and awesome Peter Wichers-style shreddery. Nothing could save the poorly-conceived “Deathrace,” whose lyrics would embarrass the guys in Funeral For A Friend and concludes with 180 unintentionally hilarious seconds of anti-animal cruelty hip hop. Fortuitously, “Deathrace” happens to be the song with the whiny screamo vocals and Manifesto’s other silly dud “Fire At Will” follows on its heels; that’s only one trip to the skip button. Even when they overreach (and suck), Deadlock is efficient.

Otherwise, Manifesto is golden, like kick-off banger “Martyr To Science,” the delirious crescendo of “Seal Slayer,” and lovely coda ballad “Altruism.” Former Scar Symmetry singer Christian Älvestam is a killer late-album surprise on finale “Dying Breed,” but the rare measure of metal class provided by his appearance – and by a thrilling tribute to late, great Israeli singer Ofra Haza on the Sisters of Mercy sorta classic “Temple Of Love” – is nearly negated by the ham-fisted animal rights themes throughout Manifesto. At best unnoticed, at worst mega-hokey, Deadlock’s goofy moralizing dooms the otherwise sturdy “Fire At Will” (saxophone solo à la “Careless Whisper”? guh?), in which a family takes a sport hunting excursion … with tragic results duh-duh-DUHHHH. Hey you can sing about fucking doorknobs if it’s good. But leave unwieldy concepts to Geoff Tate and Burton Bell. Or put a disclaimer on your record that reads: In the interest of animal cruelty prevention, do NOT read the lyric booklet. Zing!

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[Anso DF is a former music journalist who pants at the legs of Mastodon and Iron Maiden in the daily metal news column Hipsters Out Of Metal!]

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