It took three years for the current lineup of Raleigh's Here Lies...—guitarists Craig Hilton and Ryan Johnson, bassist/ vocalist Dave Sanchez, drummer John Snead—to coalesce and record this EP. These six metal exercises, and the potential they proclaim, were worth the wait and trouble.
Hilton founded Here Lies... after leaving Guns N' Roses tribute band Appetite for Destruction. He sheds most of the GN'R trappings with this quartet, opting for a sound more akin to Swedes Dissection or Dark Tranquility. His and Johnson's guitars sweep broad, baroque melodies between splashes of muted chugging, and Sanchez's growls are visceral and intelligible, recalling the imprecations of late Dissection vocalist Jon Nödtveidt's. Indeed, Here Lies... doesn't push far beyond the template of the mid-'90s Gothenburg roar. Maybe that's an Iron Maiden guitar-mony or a GN'R squeal here or there, but mostly this is a sterling take on Swedish melodic death metal.
But Here Lies... warrants attention aside from its revivalist accomplishments, because, in spite of its players' individual talents, no one obstructs the band's efforts through these six songs. These four play together smartly and succinctly: Hilton and Johnson lead, their guitars churning and diverging into open but hardly panoramic melodies. Snead's drumming— particularly his double-bass flourishes—are both muscular and tasteful, never resorting to predictable blast-beats for easy momentum, but building atop insistent grooves. Even as they trail the melodies of the guitars, Sanchez' vocals are pure menace.
Opener "Altar of Fire" exemplifies what Here Lies... does best: Their influences and proficiencies congeal into a song that is muscular and massive but moves fluidly in a unified front, shifting direction with each solo. Balancing brutality and melody, force and finesse so adeptly, might Here Lies... bring some of those GN'R obsessives to the gates of Euro-metal?
Here Lies... plays at Slim's in Raleigh with Torpor and Pivot, Friday, Oct. 2. Tickets are $3.