The Faceless: Autotheism Reviewed

We’ll start with a new album to get things rolling. It released Aug 14, 2012. The one thing I can say to summarize is that this band has not only the skill to play with massive variety moving through tons of genres, but they also can sew them all together to make a cohesive whole.

The album opens with something that could be a film score taken from some sci-fi action scene. It turns into a standard rock song harkening to some of late Metallica’s stuff complete with orchestra. If it stayed this way the album would be horrible, but I think the fact that the next “movement” brings us some hard core thrashing makes the first track a really great contrast piece. Metal often suffers from monotony, and only the good, thoughtful bands figure out a way to overcome this tendency.

In the middle of track 2 we build to a nice climax that has steadily been growing since the opening of the album. This displays a great deal of patience and maturity in their song writing. I appreciate the effort a lot, but I have to say the climax itself is a little blah. It might be classified as “fun” with its power chord progressions and melody, but nothing terribly interesting is happening. We’ve been in 4/4 time since the opening of the album.

There’s a nice lull in the second movement that nicely breaks up the monotony of loudness that could ruin the song. The opening to the third movement is a nice true departure in sound. We get some sort of organ/keyboard sound. It sounds like we’re going to get a standard 3/4 rock ballad, but then right before the heavy thrashing begins we get our first bit of counterpoint to the melodic singing. Overtop of the thrashing we get a dark choir sound that could be lifted from Orff’s Carmina Burana.

This third movement is where this band really shines. They bring in a great sax solo on top of the chaos. I’d say they even planned that the complexity of the three movements of Autotheism was intentionally driving towards the most complex. We get great pinpoint turning between 4/4, 3/4, loud, quiet, fast, soft, and ranging between choir and a more traditional metal sound. There are lots of layers going on adding to the rhythmic and tonal complexity. It is a fantastic mix.

The rest of the album proceeds pretty consistently from this three movement beginning. The next track has a lot more virtuousity in it using much more interesting chord progressions and mixed meter time signatures. The Eidolon Reality and Ten Billion Years both have something I haven’t heard in a very long time in music. They pull off tempo modulations. Yes, time and tempo changes happen frequently, but they actually do a tempo modulation, and they do it extremely well.

I absolutely love the drumming. It is done with perfect balance in my opinion. So often metal drumming is severely overpowering. It is such a shame when a band puts in the effort to compose really interesting works just to not be able to hear it with crazy pounding out 16th notes on the bass drum. The drumming varied greatly from piece to piece showing an interest in enhancing the music rather than dominating it.

Hail Science has the digital voice which really brings me back to Radiohead’s OK Computer. I’m not sure whether or not that was an intentional hommage. The last track uses an amplified acoustic guitar as its base. This works brilliantly. It lets the song shine. The traditional metal gimmicks are used for enhancement rather than content. This tells me they are interested in pushing the genre forward rather than hiding in it.

Overall, the album has a very theatrical feel to it that many might write off as less serious, but I think after the Autotheism movements the variety and complexity should rid this thought from any honest listener’s mind. I have to say that I kind of hate the lyrics. The mix of clean singing is a daring move that really pays off by providing variety and another instrument to the band, but I found being able to hear the overly generic lyrics somewhat distracting.

I give the album a 9/10.

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