Album Title: A Virtual World
Label: AFM Records
Date of Release: 26 March 2021
Oh, I don’t know, I just don’t know about this album. Regular readers will know that I have a pretty high cheese tolerance when it comes to heavy music. I may like some of the farthest and darkest reaches of extreme metal, but I can also be swayed when it comes to unashamedly saccharine material if it is done well and isn’t derivative, cynical, or a blatant attempt to curry favour with as large a fanbase as possible.
Metalite hail from Sweden and have been in existence since around 2015, with ‘A Virtual World’ being their third full-length release. They are a quintet comprised of Erica Ohlsson (Vocals), Edwin Premberg (Guitar), Robert Örnesved (Guitar), Lea Larsson (Drums), and Robert Majd (Bass). There is no doubt that these musicians believe in what they do, with the final product a slick, modern-sounding brand of European melodic metal.
There’s also no doubt that Metalite have, in Erica Ohlsson, a formidable vocalist; her tone is rich, her range is wide, and her passion comes through in her performance. Singing about the modern world, technological advances, and taking a look into the future of human development, she manages to make what could have been a bit of a naff subject quite entertaining. Around her, the remaining four musicians all display talent and proficiency in their chosen instruments.
However, I do have several reservations with the music on this album. First of all, I think the name is well chosen because, despite there being some crunchy riffs and driving rhythms within the eleven songs, it does feel a little light. Ploughing a not dissimilar furrow to the likes of Amaranthe, they lack the edge that the varied vocals provide, particularly the growls. If you happen to dislike ‘beast’ vocals, this will be music to your ears, but for me, I think Metalite lack this element, however superb Ohlsson is behind the microphone.
For my tastes, the electronic influences loom a little too large as well. Take a song like ‘Beyond The Horizon’ for example – the intro is hideous, and there’s a strong trance-like electronic element to it, creating a song that sounds like it could have come from the clubs of Ibiza, only to have some metal instrumentation applied to it to butch it up a little. I’m not sure whether to headbang, or wave a glowstick in the air.
But the biggest criticism I have with Metalite is in the melody department. For a self-appointed melodic metal band, you want the hooks to be sharp and the choruses to be strong and anthemic. Unfortunately, whilst these songs are bathed in melody, very few of them are the kind to stop me in my tracks and demand me to press the repeat button. Admittedly, the more I listen, the stronger some tracks become, but not to the point where I find this an essential album to which I have no choice but to return.
Ironically, it’s the ballad-like ‘Alone’ that hits me hardest in the melody department as the chorus is actually rather beautiful; it is a sprawling affair and I love the layers of vocals which add extra depth to the melody, which is reprised nicely within the lead guitar solo that emerges in the latter stages. There are also some nice chugging guitars in the verse to provide just a little bit of muscle. Yes it is cheesy, but because of the strength of the chorus, it is one my favourite moments on the record.
The pace and urgency of ‘Running’ is also worth a mention, because it actually comes across as quite heavy with a decent chorus. Indeed, the opening title track starts off nicely, it rockets out of the speakers at a fair lick. The riffs are doused in electronic frippery, but the verses gallop along thanks to some great drumming and bass work. Unfortunately, the chorus is a bit of a let-down. It is fast and intense, but it doesn’t contain the kind of hooks that elevate it above being just good.
‘Cloud Connected’, not to be confused with the wonderful In Flames song of the same name, ups the ante even further where the electronics are concerned, but again fails to live up to the early promise with another chorus that’s ok but not spectacular. ‘Talisman’ however, is a lot better. It features some crunchy guitars to counteract the sweetness nicely, it has a certain groove to it, a great guitar solo, and the chorus is a lot more authoritative, much catchier.
‘Peacekeepers’ is full-on cheese, with ropey lyrics, and nothing can save it to be perfectly honest, even a half-decent chorus hook. However, the ludicrously-titled ‘The Vampire Song’ is actually really quite catchy. It takes the pace off nicely and that’s ultimately to its benefit as one of the best choruses on the album is allowed the room to justifiably take the spotlight.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. If your tastes extend to the more melodic end of the heavy metal spectrum, but you’re put off by the gruff vocals of bands like Amaranthe, then Metalite could possibly be your perfect band. There is enough on this record to suggest that many will enjoy Metalite’s latest effort but if I’m completely honest, I think it is just a little too cheesy, without enough of the irresistible hooks and melodies to ensure that is an essential purchase. It’s good, but no better than that.
The Score of Much Metal: 74%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: