Recording information: Studio Phlat Planet (2002).
Photographer: A. Turner.
Upon first listen, Prey on Life -- the third album from Swedish experimental metalheads Burst -- sounds like a study in attention deficit disorder. Filled with sudden mood swings and unexpected twists that clash crushing, detuned guitar heaviness with bright acoustic guitar and synth-induced melodies face-first, challenging numbers like opener "Undoing (Prey on Life)" and the subsequent "Iris" initially prove overwhelming to the senses, their countless components flashing past quicker than they can be accounted for. Thankfully, this jarring introduction is quickly replaced by steady assimilation, as the group's reliably impressive songwriting invention and cohesively focused assault gradually manage to unify these promising sketches and snippets into a more complete, and generally convincing vision. Beginning with eye-opening third track "Sculpt the Lives," Burst fires off increasingly satisfying studies in juxtaposed violence and melodic restraint ("The Foe Sublime," "Crystal Asunder") before arguably attaining their utmost desired effect on album standout "Vortex." Ultimately, this flurry of activity proves quite taxing on the nerves, but it leaves one feeling as amazed as he is breathless when it's all said and done a few songs later. In short, where similarly versatile and ambitious metal entities such as Isis and Mastodon put the listener through an all-purpose musical marathon, Burst opts for a shorter, though only slightly less intense format as they sprint to the finish line. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia