Technical Metalcore Double Review

While making my best of 2014 halfway list I did some searching to see what other people had. I had to immediately discount half of them that contained Behemoth. The other half had two albums that came up quite a bit. I was not impressed. I don’t like bashing albums, so I’ll try to do this delicately.

The first is Inanimate Existence’s Never-Ending Cycle of Atonement. It starts with some synthesized orchestration. This always makes me cringe. Orchestrated elements play such a tiny, tiny role in this album that the whole concept of starting with it makes no sense to me. It seems really out of place.

Once the album gets going it is actually good for awhile. The songs are your standard technical death metal fare. The riffs don’t go off on huge tangents for too long. There is rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic complexity. I was actually pretty excited at the start. It has what I want form a good tech death album: the playing was tight, it kept my attention, and kept me guessing at what was coming.

One thing that was bothering me was that the production was really weird. The vocals in particular just sounded off. They were mostly inaudible growls. The guitar tone was off as well. The distortion isn’t an effective dirty death metal sound. It’s something else. Something didn’t sit right about the production, but I could overlook this if this was the only problem.

The mood changes quite a bit in the fourth track. This song has the middle section slow down into almost a ballad with clean female vocals. Something weird happens after this point. Slowly some djent and metalcore elements start entering. It doesn’t have the djent sound, but those same sorts of groove patterns start creeping in. Little by little we lose the complexity and interesting bits. Instead we are left with a bunch of repetition and tonal stagnation.

I assume this was intentional, because it is done with skill so that it doesn’t happen all at once. The change is subtle. For example, there are sections of the next song that sound like the opening material, but there are also segments that are based entirely around two notes.

I like the idea of some of the neo-classical elements they put in. Many of the songs have a “development” section where they take melodies, fragment them, and then reuse them in various ways. Though the idea is good, it just doesn’t work well for me. A good development section doesn’t just cleverly reuse old material. It has to develop and have direction. Theirs seem to just sit there not heading towards anywhere. By the end of the album we’ve progressed to such a different place that it sounds like Cynic playing video game music (seriously, is that the Mega Man theme?).

Overall, this album is pretty good. It isn’t going to make any top whatever list for me. It has a lot of potential, and good ideas. I just couldn’t get into large portions of it. Here’s a sample:

The other album I saw pop up on a lot of lists was Allegaeon’s Elements of the Infinite. Despite being quite different from the above album, they start the same way. The opener starts with acoustic guitar turning into a fully orchestrated piece. Actually, this is pretty awesome. This is real orchestration rather than a cheap electronic imitation. The transition to metal is pretty seamless, but I can’t help but wonder again: Why? Orchestration appears here and there on the album, but is extremely minor. It isn’t as conspicuously weird on this one, so it I won’t say it is an actual mistake in judgment (like the last one).

This album may have a lot of technical playing in it, but it is quite straightforward. It was a fun listen the first time through, but I can’t get into any of the songs very much. This is an oversimplification, but I feel like a huge amount of the technical playing is just arpeggiating on repeat really fast. The metalcore grooves are too repetitive for songs of this length. This makes neither the soloing nor the accompaniment all that interesting to me.

I’ve seen a lot of people call this “melodic death metal.” When melodies are happening, I think the album is fine. With the number of people praising this as absolutely excellent, maybe I’ve just lost my mind. It sounds very generic to me. I can’t really remember anything about it when it ends. There are moments that I get what people are talking about, but I can’t praise a whole album based on a few small parts. Maybe I just don’t like melodic death metal.

Overall, I have the ability to enjoy listening to this when it is on. It has nice solid playing and a better sense of direction than the first album I reviewed. I just probably wouldn’t have put it on this last time if I weren’t reviewing it. Here’s a sample:

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