Friday, April 12, 2013

Review: The Faceless - Autotheism

Band: The Faceless
Album: Autotheism
Year: 2012
Country: USA
Genre: Technical/Progressive Death Metal

When I read the The Faceless used to be a deathcore band I almost didn’t believe it. Autotheism is the only album I have heard of theirs (and I only listened based on the praise it had gotten) and at this moment it is quite easily my favorite modern progressive death metal album. This is a long ways from anything deathcore. In addition to being progressive, Autotheism is also quite technical as well and for me this is like killing two birds with one stone. Autotheism is actually a concept of sorts, telling the story as the name suggests of a man who forsakes traditional religion and believes himself to be god.

The albums first 3 tracks are actually one long song separated into movements. This is one of my favorite parts about progressive music and the band successfully pulls off repeating themes from earlier in the song at different points. The guitarists start Create off at a slow almost alternative metal like sound, and yet as soon as that song is over Emancipate kicks in and so does the shred. Michael Keene and Wes Hauch show their skills throughout the album with noodling guitar solos and extremely fast riffing. The best part is that it totally fits, all of it. It doesn’t feel like they are using guitar wankery in a masturbatory manner and it comes off as solely for the benefit of the music and story being told. So while the wank is there it isn’t done in a shameful way.

Lyle Cooper’s drumming is just as insane as the guitar parts. He keeps up and when the guitars shred he shoots off at a frenetic yet composed pace. Yet when the band slows down (which they do a number of times like in Create,  Deconsecrate, and 10 Billion Years) he can slow down as well though sometimes he will still let loose with double bass which seems at odds with the slower guitars and snare. The bass is the least interesting part of the album though. It mostly sticks to mimicking the guitar riffs but hey at least you can hear Evan Brewer’s contribution.

There are both clean and harsh vocals on Autotheism.  While Geoffrey Ficco does the harsh vocals using deep death growls Michael Keene does the cleans. I find Keene’s clean singing to be a bit more interesting than Ficco’s death growls. His singing sounds a lot like Jeffrey Nothing from Mushroomhead, except he sounds a lot better and less cartoonish.

There are a lot of interesting elements on the album that keep it in stark contrast to most regular death metal albums. The acoustic intro to In Solitude and the saxophone on Deconsecrate are especially nice touches. There are also a decent amount of keys throughout that sometimes take precedence and provide a lot of atmosphere.  Especially the very church like keys at the start of Deconsecrate, how very appropriate!

Autotheism has a lot going for it. There is enough progressive elements to make it stand apart from just being another generic death metal album and the technical musicianship only adds to that. Keene has a great singing voice as well and each song is memorable and  has things that make them stand apart from each other, even the first 3 tracks that are actually movements of one song. I actually feel like they are kind of doing a more streamlined version of what Between the Buried and Me do but in a death metal fashion. I really can’t find any fault with what The Faceless have put forth here and commend them for also including an interesting lyrical concept to go along with the interesting music, and making them fit. I would recommend Autotheism to anyone who likes progressive type metal or those willing to have a try for something that’s a bit off the beaten path.

Score: 9/10
Standout Tracks: Create, Deconsecrate, In Solitude

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Review: Soilwork - The Living Infinite

Band: Soilwork
Album: The Living Infinite
Year: 2013
Country: Sweden
Genre: Melodic Death Metal

I really haven’t heard anything bad so far of the releases I have listened to so far this year. It seems Soilwork will continue this trend with The Living Infinite, which is a large offering and supposedly the first double album released by a melodic death metal band. For me Soilwork’s first 3 releases should be required listening for anyone interesting in experiencing melodic death. Yeah, I’m one of those guys who holds up their early releases as being great and writes off the rest. In fact you can say the band pulled an “In Flames” and after those albums  became very mainstream and softened their approach. So its with much pleasure that I say this  is a much welcomed return to form.

It’s interesting to note that neither of the guitarists were in the band around the period of Steelbath Suicide to A Predator’s Portrait which is funny because a lot of the riffing sounds exactly like those time periods. In fact a lot of the material like Spectrum of Eternity, This Momentary Bliss, and Realm of the Wasted sound like a mating between the thrashiness of The Chainheart Machine and melody heavy (and clean vocals) of A Predator’s Portrait fused together. The second CD is a bit more darker and experimental with a number of tracks slowing down, the opening instrumental Entering Aeons being quite doomy while Owl’s Predict, Oracles Stand Guard also stays at a far slower doom type pace until it gets close to the end. But all the riffs compiled from both CDs have one thing in common, they have quality melodic riffs whether fast or slow. I can’t say there are any bad guitar parts of the 20 songs on the release.

Bjorn Strid uses his screams to great affect and sounds more like he did in his early days though sometimes going down to lower growls to switch things up. His clean singing is really good and he has a strong voice. I’m glad its not whiny or it could have spelled doom for the album. In fact his cleans are so good that I would not mind if he had a project where he only sung as Antidotes In Passing clearly shows he can go a whole song only singing and do quite well.

The drumming by Dirk Verbeuren is incredibly well handled and is very much a highlight and important part of making The Living Infinite sound the way it does. He displays a lot of energy through the drumming and shows major chops, its very fun stuff to listen to.  Ola Fink sticks to playing along with the guitars a lot though he is turned up just enough in the mix to be heard and in some songs gets to the forefront like in Drowning With Silence where he gets a sort of bass break during the bridge. Keyboards are also very tastefully done by Sven Karlsson and never overstep their bounds.

Something I find  really cool about this double album is the fact that each CD seems to go by so quickly since these are all quality songs. You would think at 20 tracks it would drag somewhere along the way, maybe even on both discs at some point. But instead before you know it each is over and my guess is its because its such a good listening experience, you know the old saying “time flies when you’re having fun” surely applies here. There is no filler, not a single throw away track. It’s really impressive that Soilwork were able to create two albums worth of music and keep it interesting all the way through. While disc one is aggressive and has a lot of fast paced thrashing action the second is a little more experimental and they seem to complement each other very well. While there are a few slower tracks overall The Living Infinite reminds me heavily of their earlier material and I couldn’t be more pleased at how it turned out.

Score: 9.5/10
Standout Tracks: Spectrum of Eternity, This Momentary Bliss, Tongue, Vesta, Long Live the Misanthrope, Antidotes In Passing, The Living Infinite II

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Review: Killswitch Engage - Disarm the Descent

Band: Killswitch Engage
Album: Disarm the Descent
Year: 2013
Country: USA
Genre: Metalcore

Here we have the much anticipated (for me and many others) return of Jesse Leach to Killswitch Engage. After Adam D. and Jesse collaborated together in Times of Grace I figured that was the closest we would ever get to a Leach fronted Killswitch, so I was ecstatic when it was announced he was rejoining the band. On Disarm the Descent it's easy to see the band went for a rawer and more in your face approach trying to capture the energy they had on Alive or Just Breathing and which had been missing for the last few albums.

After giving the whole album a good listen the first thing you notice besides the change in vocals from Howard Jones to Leach is the faster pace and heaviness of the guitars. I think its safe to say these are the fastest riffs Adam D. and Joel Stroetzel have played in their careers with KsE. A number of tracks on DtD are relatively fast paced for the band, in particular A Tribute to the Fallen, The Call, and All That We Have. And aside from the poppy melody ridden choruses most of the riffs are filled with aggression that the band hasn't expressed in their music for some time. Another thing is the quantity of solos on the album were quite a treat considering it's something that is sparse in their back catalog. I also have really dug the emphasis on harmonized leads especially on No End In Site, and New Awakening which reminds me heavily of the Swedish melodic death metal bands of the 90s.

To go along with the speedy guitar riffs the drumming of Justin Foley is far more frenzied than ever before. There are blasts all over the album and it just adds to the punishing nature of the guitars when Foley is thrashing the drums like a madman. Mike D'Antonio's bass is also noticeably present throughout the album which is great since they had been a little more subdued over the last couple releases.

And then we come to the vocals. Over time Jesse Leach has had to change his vocal style in order to keep from injuring his vocal chords. Yet it seems literally with every release since his return to metal has sounded just a bit different, going from The Empire Shall Fall, to Times of Grace, and now to Killswitch Engage each time refining his technique. By now he really doesn't sound much like he did back in the early 00s. His clean vocals are given more time on this album than his previous time in the band but there is still plenty of harsh throat ripping growls, most times layered just underneath his clean singing as well to add to the raw feel of the album. Adam D. is also present here as well lending his deep death growls here and there on a few songs. Leach's lyrics are the same as they have been lately, mostly dealing with perseverance, redemption, and positivity.

I'll be honest I was extremely nervous about how Disarm the Descent would turn out. I figure it would go either one of two ways, either it would is a total mess and not live up to the expectations in my mind as a fanboy of early Killswitch Engage, or it would be a great album that destroyed any reservations I may have had. I'm glad to say the latter is what came to be true. If I had to give a short description to someone of the album I would say it's like Alive or Just Breathing married with their modern sound. Yet there is something else there, an urgency that wasn't previously in their other albums. Here is to hoping this is a direction the band continues to explore in the future!

Score: 9.5/10
Standout Tracks: Beyond the Flames, In Due Time, You Don't Bleed For Me

Friday, March 29, 2013

Review: Mutiny Within - Synchronicity

Band: Mutiny Within
Album: Synchronicity
Year: 2013
Country: USA
Genre: Melodic Death Metal

While I personally enjoyed Mutiny Within’s self titled first album apparently they didn’t sell very well and broke up. Now a few years later they reformed for a second go around with Synchronicity. The band is still playing its semi-technical/progressive melodic death metal and if you enjoyed their first release then you are going to be very pleased here.

The vocals Chris Clancy put out on Synchronicity are just as powerful as they were on the S/T. The guy has just got a great singing voice very akin to what you might normally hear in a power metal band. Yet at the same time he also has a decent growl as well. The growling ranges from high pitched to a more common “normal” type of growl. Clancy’s singing though is really where he shines.

If you are familiar with the band’s last album then you won’t be surprised that this one is chock full of melodic riffing. The majority of the riffs are uplifting and while any normal person would think they were really quite heavy those who are accustomed to listening to metal would probably say it’s a little weak. And they wouldn’t be wrong, though I highly doubt being heavy or aggressive is anywhere in the band’s mission statement.  Still there are moments in Machine and the bridge of In My Veins where the band noticeably cranks things up.

I really enjoy the drumming of Bill Fore as its more technical and energetic than that of many drummers in the genre they play in. Yet the drumming isnt overly technical and doesn’t become pretentious wankery. And Fore seems to know very well when its appropriate to go full blast and when to slow down.  Now apparently Andrew Jacobs played bass on this album but I didn’t hear it at all. Chock it up to the usual mixing of the bass out of the music and not enough breathing room between the guitars and bass to make it audible.

When it comes down to it Synchronicity is very much the predecessor to Mutiny Within and it wouldn’t be wrong to say this is like the second part of that album. Here we have heaps of melody, a great vocalist, riffs, and superb drumming.  And for me it’s Embers, In My Veins, and Falls to Pieces that really blew me away though there isn’t a filler track on the album.

Score: 9/10
Standout Tracks: Embers, In My Veins, Falls to Pieces

Friday, January 4, 2013

Top 5 Of 2012

So with the end of 2012 we have my top 5 picks of the year.

In no particular order we have:

Gojira - Le'Enfant Sauvage

Revocation - Teratogenesis

Parkway Drive - Atlas

Alcest - Les Voyages De L'âme

Black Breath - Sentenced to Life

I unfortunately didn't get to review as many albums from 2012 as I had wished, but that doesn't mean I haven't listened to a lot of releases I didn't get to review. I have a few bands that in my mind deserve mention and praise.

The Faceless - Autotheism

Caliban - I Am Nemesis

Of my top 5 the only one I didn't get to review was Gojira's Le'Enfant Sauvage. This was a really impressive album and I have been listening to it a lot lately. Every track is great, even the instrumental The Wild Healer. Anyways that's it for me, lets hope 2013 was as strong as 2012!