Album Review: Merauder, God Is I

[from MadeLoud, July 27, 2009]

Like a lot of hardcore albums, Merauder’s God Is I is a lot of things: intense; heavy; confrontational. But beyond the standard rage and anger so many musical works define themselves by, God Is I is actually really just plain mean, not in a “life is hard and you are a bad person” way but in a “life is hard and I’m going to beat you up” way and, also like a lot of hardcore albums, this mostly works in God Is I‘s favor.

That’s not to say Merauder have found a wholly unique approach to hardcore and groove-fueled, low-end metal – indeed, listeners will find plenty of similarities to territory already covered by All That Remains, Clutch and As I Lay Dying to name a few – but God Is I pays less a debt to Merauder’s peers than it does to its predecessors, the group somehow playing new, old music. The impassioned screaming of opener “Until,” for example, builds on a riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Pantera record, but Jorge Rosado’s painfully blunt chorus of “crush your enemies” makes it clear: this a record about action, not letters (even though the skull-crushing “Ratcatcher” in fact encourages people to, quite literally, bleed for their words).

Beyond Rosado’s Tom Araya-covering-Napalm Death vocals, Merauder also has a supreme advantage in the searing chops of former Unbalanced lead guitarist Darien Polach. Adding an avant-garde twist to the time-honored traditions of metal gunslinging, Polach squeezes new life out of the standard-issue Eddie Van Halen tapping tricks (“Built on Blood”) while simultaneously infusing a surprising listenability to nearly amelodic shredding (“Gangsta”), and his contributions go a long way in keeping Merauder from becoming just another screaming quintet that learned how to down-tune their instruments.

Ultimately, the only thing holding God Is I back isn’t any one aspect or song, but rather the whole of those songs; hardcore music (and especially hardcore metal) lends its practitioners a very limited palette, and Merauder are no exception. Constant double bass and perpetual E-string riffing have served many groups well, but have also helped out very few for more than 20 minutes at a time. Still, Merauder have found a way to craft some unexpectedly fresh-sounding songs with this famously narrow set of tools, and God Is I will surely reward patient metal fans for their effort.