Feb 032011

Join us once again in our continuing quest for new ways to describe music in mere words. This review will be filled with metaphors and similes (necessarily pathetic ones because we are writing them ourselves) because The Famine‘s new album, Architects of Guilt, demands more than usual review verbiage is capable of expressing.

Imagine this: You come across a big nest of dormant, Texas-sized red wasps, and you drop it gently into a big bag. Carefully, you walk over and stand on an electrified floor, you shake the bag vigorously until all the wasps are awake and really pissed off, then you stick your head in the bag while big pulses of electric current shoot up through the soles of your feet in a syncopated rhythm — and a welterweight boxer uses your kidneys as a punching bag.

And for good measure, your friend the welder periodically applies a burst of acetylene flame to the base of your neck, without so much as a reach-around.

There you have it: That pretty much describes what we felt when listening to The Famine‘s new album, Architects of Guilt. We could just stop there, but we get paid by the word here at NCS, so there’s more to come!  (after the jump . . .)

Let’s talk about the vocals. They’re of two kinds, and the juxtaposition is a consistent feature of the music, though it’s probably the most striking in the call-and-response tradeoff in “Turner Classic Diaries”. And for you fans of The Famine’s first album, this is one change you’ll notice: On the high- and the low-end, the vocals reach extremes you didn’t hear on the band’s label debut.

In one kind of vocals, Nick Nowell sounds like he gargled with the juice of 100 jalapenos before stepping up to the mic. All that unmatched acid fire melting his vocal chords brings forth a level of balls-to-the-wall shrieking that will make your eyes pop open like kernels of roasted corn when you hear it. He sounds really pissed off — because he pretty much is.

Then there’s the other kind — the kind that makes you think you’ve just come face-to-face with a roaring grizzly bear in the woods, standing about 8 feet tall on two legs, and all you know to do is wet yourself in anticipation of the claws coming down on your eggshell skull.

So, I can imagine you’re asking about the drums now. I’m glad you asked. Mark Garza attacks them like someone who has one chance, and only one chance, to avoid a firing squad’s fusillade at dawn — and that’s to hit those skins as fast as humanly possible without allowing the firing squad to get bored. If Iwere a triggerman, I’d be holding my fire, wanting more. Oh yes, my second time through this album I did almost nothing but listen to the drums.  Acrobatic, but definitely not boring.

The guitars? Yes, they’re damned important. After all, this is a near-grind-paced, technically oriented death-metal band from the Great State of Texas, and so yes, you’re smart to ask about the ax-work. And here’s your answer: It’s proof that science has finally succeeded in splicing the DNA of cheetahs and humans.

Andrew Godwin‘s guitars are speedy and predatory and oh so clever. They race and leap and stagger and turn on a dime, as if matching stride for stride a springbok trying desperately to escape its fate. In addition to all that dextrous riffing, there are solos that shriek and spin like a dentist’s drill with a mind of its own that decides to just continue boring up into your cranium after it’s through with that tooth decay. (Hey, you can’t say I didn’t warn you about the pathetic metaphors.)

But what’s so very sweet — what makes this album an above-average tech-death offering — is the integration of irresistible groove with all the chaotic exuberance, the imposition of a structure that works within the frantic pace to keep the listener hooked and moving. That key feature of The Famine’s sound hasn’t changed.

Which brings us to the bass. Jon Richardson joined the band to take over the bass role when Nick Nowell stepped up to the mic, and he sounds like an industrial jackhammer working on a cast-iron pipe, delivering sharp, clanging, compulsive rhythms. A worthy addition to the attack.

In places, The Famine do ease up on the accelerator, albeit briefly. There’s the more down-tempo “A Pavement of Good Intentions”, with its morbid tremolo phrasings, and the even more-backed down, swampy Southern stomp that runs through the closing track, “To the Teeth” (which I liked a lot, despite how different it is from all else on the album). But I’m quite happy with the blurring pace through most of the album’s length.

The Famine’s 2008 label debut, The Raven and the Reaping, was a helluva jaw-breaking start for this band. It’s still one of our favorite listens. Mindful of the dreaded sophomore curse, I crossed my fingers when I started listening to The Architects of Guilt. But I’ve concluded that the curse was discharged when the band’s studio burned down early last year, costing them their early work on this new album and forcing them to start over, and when the group’s original vocalist Chris McCaddon departed.

Seems like that’s more than enough cursing — and now we can report that there’s certainly nothing cursed about The Architects of Guilt. It’s a step-up in The Famine’s game that will make fans of The Raven and the Reaping very happy. I could have used more (and longer) of those superheated drill-bit solos that enlivened songs like “We Are the Wolves” and “Pyrithion House”, but that’s just because I’m a greedy fucker. Overall, I’m one of those Raven fans who’s very happy.

I should mention the production.  In the producer’s chair was D. Braxton Henry, guitarist for Devourment, and mixing duties were handled by Jason Suecof. If you like some mud and grit in your production, you won’t find it here. Everything is clean and sharp, every plucked string and drum-strike is audible. Truth be told, there were times when I yearned for something a bit more raw — but let’s face it, clean production suits this kind of technical execution pretty well, particularly because that’s one area in which this album exceeds the debut.

Here’s the opening track from The Architects of Guilt:

[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/The-Famine-01-The-New-Hell-watermarked.mp3|titles=The Famine – The New Hell]

Oh, fuckit. How ’bout one more song? This one may be even better than the one before.

[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/The-Famine-03-We-Are-The-Wolves-watermarked.mp3|titles=The Famine – We Are The Wolves]

The Architects of Guilt will be released on February 15 on Solid State Records.

  10 Responses to “THE FAMINE”

  1. I like all the MetalSucks comments along the lines of “Death metal? This isn’t death metal. You clearly don’t know anything about death metal”…

    Which is a) condescending as all get out and b) just stupid.

    My main concern was the change in vocalist, as I really liked the character of McCaddon’s vocals on their debut. Not yet made my mind up about the new ones yet.

  2. thought their debut was memorable in the 1st half of it, then lost it in the latter part

    and judging from the song they posted from the new album weeks ago I can feel that the new album will be a whole lot better than The Raven

    • I’ll be curious to hear what you think after listening more. I thought, on the whole, the instrumental work was more technically demanding and the song construction more intricate, but without losing the groove that made “Raven” a frequent repeat listen for me. The vocals may take some getting used to — more in the vein of BDM’s Trevor Strnad — but I obviously got used to them pretty fast. 🙂

  3. Not to be demeaning, but I got lost in some of those metaphors. The trick with writing metaphors and similes is to keep them to one concise phrase and use clear language so that the interpretation is exactly what you are getting at while not being distracting. The one about the dentist’s drill is pretty distracting. Of course I don’t make my bones writing about metal. To tell the truth, I kind of suck at it.

    As for the music, I kind of like it. In my opinion the cover art doesn’t suit the music. When I see the cover I think black metal. But while some of the vocals sound black-ish, the overall feel of the music fits more in the realm of chunky, melodic thrash technical death metal. Or something. I might have to go pick this up even if they are from Texas.

    • I kind of got lost in the metaphors, too. 🙂 I think you’re right about how they should be used, and in good writing, they should also be used sparingly or they wear out their welcome. However, something about this music just shoved all those do’s and don’t’s right out of my small brain.

      You have a point about genre misdirection in the album cover, but it makes sense if you know the lyrical concept behind many of the songs — which of course I said nothing about. Much of it is an indictment of religious institutions (though not spirituality), and hypocrisy and intolerance in other forms, too.

  4. Man I think this shit is epic!!! So good… I like the vocals a lot more. really, really good. Don’t listen to people that talk shit. If one has something thoughtful to say, even constructive criticism, then go for it. But when people are negative like that, fuck em. Why would you give a shit about the opinions of a bunch of people that you don’t give a shit about in the first place… I digress.
    Remember, it’s about the music, and this shit is really refreshing to me.

    • All true — which is why I so rarely read the smack-talk in the MS comments. Just seems like lots of readers over there can’t resist talking shit. We’ve been very lucky at this site that the comments we get have some good thinking behind them — or they’re just plain entertaining, which is also good.

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