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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Review: Royal Jake - Retaliate - The Answer


Royal Jake is a 3-man metalcore band from Belgium, consisting of Arjen van Acker on guitar, Kjell de Raes on drums and Peter de Bondt on bass. The latter is also responsible for the vocal contributions. Founded long ago, back in 1992, they started as a grunge/groove metal band, but never made it into the big leagues. After a long pause, the band reincarnated in 2010, marking the start of an evolution of their musical path. Although still present on their first release after their reincarnation, Royal Jake quickly exchanged their grunge style for metalcore, leading to the release of an EP called ‘Tenacity’ in 2015. Continuing their evolution they now release their new EP called ‘Retaliate – The Answer’. Unlike their previous releases, this EP has been recorded in a professional studio, greatly improving the quality of the production. This EP is, according to the band, a statement towards the modern music industry where bands are being financially exploited. Being an EP, ‘Retaliate…’ only has six songs, spanning a total playing time of a little over 21 minutes. Fine when it sucks, but way too short when the music is any good at all. Let’s see what applies here.

After a rather meaningless intro the EP kicks off with the title song ‘Retaliate, The Answer’, which immediately grabs you by the throat never to let go again. Its strong, heavy riffs require a rhythm section that is perfectly aligned with them and that is exactly what you get. Combine that with various, sometimes brilliant breakdowns and a grunt that can grind solid concrete and you have met Royal Jake. A strong opening like this one always causes concern the rest of the songs might disappoint, but that is not the case here. With each new song they manage to maintain the high quality they displayed on the opener. Next in line is ‘Apocalyptic Treasure’, quite a fitting name for a song like this. Riddled with tempo changes, this one is a musical adventure in itself. Kudos to Kjell for his particularly awesome drum work in this one, although this in no way disqualifies the work of the other two.

No rest for the wicked, the third song continues to relentlessly bombard your eardrums with top shelf metalcore. The grunts seem to intensify, if that even is possible, varying between deep, intense growls and almost demonic howls. A somewhat slower song, but that is not exactly something bad and to be honest the term ‘slower’ has been used quite loosely. It seamlessly flows into ‘Cassandra complex’, the penultimate song and the song with the most complicated rhythm- and tempo changes. When closing track ‘NGB’ starts you’d be forgiven for thinking you have ended up in the middle of a random rock album, because with its sweet opening it seems quite out of place on ‘Retaliate…’, but that is only temporary. ‘NGB’ turns out to be a gem, complete with distinct punk influences. What a way to end this EP.

Concluding it’s safe to say Royal Jake’s decision to switch from grunge to metalcore proves to be a very good one. With this release they are well on their way to secure a high ranked position in the genre for themselves. If anything ‘Retaliate…’ makes them excellent representatives to the metalcore scene, one it could really use as well. The power, intensity and depth of the songs and the music really stands out, as well as the ongoing variety within each song. The breakdowns are numerous, but never too much. The energy this trio puts in their creations causes a rumble throughout the entire release making it hard to stop listening to it. There’s something new every time you give it a spin. 20 minutes of this is nowhere near enough, so here’s the one piece of advice I’d like to give the boys: Stop making EP’s start making full-lengths! Recommended

Written by Henric van Essen

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