The three perpetrators of this site first saw this band as the headline act in a small, crappy little club in Portland that hadn’t been cleaned since Ronald Reagan was president. The whole place was scarred, and every surface was sticky. It was pretty full, which didn’t take a lot. There was hardly any room to move. That night, this band owned the place. The performance was explosive, and the performers had magnetic stage presence.
We saw ’em again on another national tour the next year in Seattle at a much larger, nicer club where they weren’t the headline act. They played again with explosive energy, just blew the crowd away. The other bands were bigger names, but this one damn-near stole the show. It was like some big muscle car going full-throttle, with the tachometer in the red zone.
They’ve just released a new album, their third. We thought we’d review it without naming the band — at least not today. We’ll do that tomorrow. Yeah, there’s a reason why we’re being so mysterious. We’ll explain tomorrow.
Some of you may recognize the music we’re going to put up from the album for you to hear. If you don’t, feel free to make some guesses in the comments, and in any event, let us know whether you like it or don’t. We do. Maybe we like it partly because we have such strong memories of those two obliteratingly powerful live shows. But that’s only part of the reason. (more after the jump, including a track to stream . . .)
Somewhere along the way, this band got tagged by some people with the “deathcore” label. The label wasn’t entirely unfair, because (particularly on the last album) the band has been partial to massively down-tuned, clanging riffs, large doses of double-bass, and the general rhythmic pattern of deathcore, including mammoth breakdowns.
But the band’s two previous releases have also included some unexpected variation from the pattern, and a healthy dose of honest, straight-ahead death metal.
Fans familiar with the band’s previous albums will certainly recognize the third one. It’s still loaded with down-tuned, jackhammer riffing, frenetic drumwork full-forward in the mix, and an assortment of roof-collapsing breakdowns (there’s a doozy on track 5).
But changes are also in evidence. The band’s distinctive vocalist has shifted to a much more pronounced hardcore style of testosterone-injected howling, reminiscent (at least to us) of Darkest Hour‘s vocalist, John Henry. The deep gutturals aren’t gone, but they’re used more sparingly.
The band’s music has always been a fusion of hardcore and death metal with a healthy dose of thrash, but perhaps as a result of the altered vocal style, several of the songs on this album have a more pronounced hardcore vibe than we remember from the previous albums (particularly tracks 8 and 9).
As compared to previous efforts, the songs on the new album also reflect greater tempo dynamics and more frequent use of melodic guitar leads and solos, and indeed, the tracks that work best are those that change course in unexpected ways, whether it be the slower-paced instrumental in the middle of track 5 or the swirling guitar leads that carry the mid-tempo track 10 or the start-stop, techie hammering that infuses track 4.
The album also includes a haunting instrumental (track 7) that starts with an almost sludgy opening riff and includes an almost bluesy dual guitar lead in the middle (with the drumming backed down), and a soaring guitar anthem at the end.
Two well-known frontmen from other bands make guest appearances on two songs (tracks 3 and 5, respectively)
But what pervades all the tracks except for that instrumental is a flood of passionate fury — the same kind of emotional onslaught that made those live performances we saw so riveting. These dudes aren’t posers. They’re invested heart and soul in what they’re doing, and that passion enlivens the music.
Here’s a track from the new album for you to stream:
Answers to the riddles tomorrow — who this is, and why we decided to run this review with the identities concealed.