If you haven't heard of After the Burial, you've been missing one of the most interesting modern metal bands to rise up in the last 5 years. They fly under the now-infamous Sumerian Records label, host to some fantastic young bands such as The Faceless, Veil of Maya and Periphery as well as shit-tastic scene fags in Asking Alexandria and Upon A Burning Body. Their self-produced debut, Forging A Future Self
, came out in 2006 and their Sumerian debut, Rareform
, came out in 2008.
If you're a fan, like me, you've probably had Rareform
on your playlist constantly since it was released two years ago. ATB blends together an extremely unique and technical style, bringing together the groove of Meshuggah with metalcore-ish structure and topped with a dose of progressive metal and liberal usage of sweep arpeggios from the fantastic playing of guitarists Trent Halfdahl and Justin Lowe. The style is a gigantic breath of fresh air into the modern metal genre, breaking the usual metalcore/deathcore/tech death molds that many bands fall into today. Sure, they borrow a lot from Meshuggah in their style, and no, they aren't even close to the godliness of those crazy Swedish motherfuckers, but they are damn
more better than any of the bands they've been opening up for the past couple years (Winds of Plague, Suicide Silence, Bleeding Through, Fucking Emmure
Anyway, what I'm saying is that for me personally, Rareform
is one of my favorite albums in recent memory, and probably in my top 15 of all time. Its one of the few albums, especially modern metal albums, that I love every song. I've listened to that album front to back, nonstop on my iPod while running and working out so many times its a little insane. So yeah, I have high standards for these guys. I know what they're capable of.
, their 3rd studio album, came out a couple hours ago. I actually bought it on iTunes because, hell, I enjoyed Rareform s
o much I felt entitled to give these guys a bit of my coin, no matter how small. Why a review so quickly? Because the album is only 34 minutes long. I've listened to it front to back 2 times, and here is my impressions:
Track 1: My Frailty
We start off with with a slow, static-y build up, into a Welcome To The Jungle-esque guitar stutter, straight into a brutal, fast paced chug with Anthony screaming in rhythm. I've heard this song on Youtube live since they've been shooting it out in their sets for the past 4 months or so, but the album version sounds so much more brutal. They also removed that damn Emmure sound effect that was played live (you know... that fucking annoying pitch change "ohWEEEEEohWEEEEEE" noise). Thank god. I was worried, to be honest, on how simple the beginning sounded live. Anyway, we move onto a nice "jump up and down" rhythm, a la A Steady Decline from FAFS. Quickly its kind of taken away with a traditional metalcore "strum some sad sounding chords" section, but then we're thrown back into the "jump up and down" parts, and they really don't get old.
This is the After the Burial I've known and loved, and this song fits real well with their repertoire. We also get some excellent shred back-and-forths with the guitars, the best
of the album in my opinion. An especially heavy groove-down (its not really a "breakdown", in a traditional metalcore/deathcore sense) starts at 3:53.
This song is great, but almost feels like it belongs on Forging A Future
self rather than Rareform
. Not necessarily a bad thing. I'm digging the new style so far, its definitely a movement beyond Rareform
Rating: 9.5 / 10
Track 2: Your Troubles Will Cease and Fortune Will Smile Upon You
Well Shit. What kind of metal title is that? ATB have pretty much cemented themselves as a hardcore-positive-straight edge band lyrically. I miss my Cursing Akhenaten lyrics...
Locusts and famine engulfing your race, my savagery knows no end.
At the price of all your lives I destroy your kind death by my hand.
Sands blowing across cursed lands will consume the evidence of your ancient existence.
The Earth is now black from the torment I have set upon it.
All shall bow serve and praise thy name
Yeah, take note boys, THATS how you write some brutal fucking lyrics. Anyway, I soon totally forget the name as the opening riff is completely brutal. Kind of reminds me of the sliding style Gunface uses in It Came From Over There by The Red Chord (a great instrumental metal song; I recommend it highly). Some good time signature-fuck-with-your-head groove ensues. The verse/chorus groove riff is great in my opinion, showing how mature ATB have become in their song structure. So far, no sad-metalcore-ish parts. It stays brutal, like Rareform. Me likey. Another SICK groove breakdown at 2:41; this is how you make someone bang their head, deathcore idiots of the world. Before I know it, the song is fading out and I realize I have been headbanging since the first second. That
is an accomplishment I don't get out of a ton of songs, even ATB tunes. At this point I look back to see, "what awesome song was this again?", and I look at the title... maybe positive metal can
be brutal. I'm loving this song like the girl next door.
Track 3: Pendulum
And this is when the album turns. It starts with a pretty sad, metalcore-ish clean intro, which kind of turns me off. I learned to love Aspiration as the best song on Rareform, so I don't dismiss it initially. It turns heavy soon enough, but keeps the same sad/(dare I say?)emoish metalcore chord progressions that Unearth and early As I Lay Dying made us all tired of. But the groove is still there, not nearly as good as Your Troubles...
, but there nonetheless.
And then it hits.
Theres singing. Straight up, melodic metalcore singing. My first reaction is denial (no... this is ATB, the most brutal new band out there... this isn't actually happening
), and then its immediate questioning: who's singing it? Anthony just runs around like a madman screaming, it can't be him. He's like my pure, Tim Lambesis-ish singer who will make someone else sing the parts because he isn't a pussy. Or is he? The only other vocalist I've seen is Trent, who does brutal
low screams in songs like Cursing Akhenaten. That angelic voice can't come from his demonic mouth.
Anyway, I try to shug it off. It comes back and stings me a couple times, but its there in the background. This is waaaaay uncharacteristic of ATB. And too generic. It sounds like they're trying to be an As I Lay Dying (or dare I say Bullet for my Valentine) wannabe with the generic chord progressions and singing. The song picks up around the 2:30 mark with a great half-time groove, a la Chimaira or Lamb of God. And I will say that Anthony's screams sound excellent, much better than the Rareform re-issue when he first flexed the golden pipes. The song then falls back into the chorus, kind of repeating again... and again... and again... seriously, what the fuck? I can't stand when a band is so damn uncreative that they just repeat the fucking chorus over and over. It does end on a great groove beat, the kind where you just automatically nod your head without thinking. That kind of saves the song. Overall, its the most generic ATB tune we've had yet. WAY below anything on Rareform.
Track 4: Bread Crumbs and White Stones
Okay... thats another interesting title. Not bad, just interesting. This is the song that has been up on their myspace for weeks now, so we've all heard it by now. Its interesting to hear it in the whole context of the album, though. The opening riff is pretty cool and melodic... and a little familiar... hey, thats almost note for note the opening of OMETH! Whatever, Ometh was a sick fucking song, so I'm not complaining. Whereas Ometh goes into getting low and heavy, Bread Crumbs stays up in the airy, melodic range for a bit. I really enjoy it actually; theres a lot of maiden-esque harmony going on in the guitars. It goes into a rather good groove section, although it feels a little rushed to go back to the melody. Hey, but theres no singing! And then theres this one little riff that sounds just like an As I Lay Dying song that nobody but me would recognize me; it scared me a bit. We go next into an interesting change of tempo with another groove-down, then to a REAL groove-down that sounds like it came right off Rareform
. This is the ATB I love! I feel like the song isn't amazing to last third, so that keeps it from being at the top of the album for me.
Track 5: To Carry You Away
Uh oh. Another sad clean intro of strummed minor chords. Seriously, if I wanted to listen to Killswitch Engage I would put on a fucking Killswitch album. It just doesn't seem to fit with ATB. Next, the heavy comes in with another sad metalcore progression. However, the actual riffing around the progression is really good, displaying some sick guitar work. A lot better than Pendulum. But then, like a psychotic bipolar whore who beats you the second after fucking you, we get the singing again, with the chorus repeating. When I hear that, it immediately turns me off. I love progressive song structure, which was a lot of Rareform
. I can't help but to feel like this song is just falling into a generic rut that is a step backwards in my opinion, like how Sacrament was a step backwards in songwriting for Lamb of God after Ashes of the Wake.
And yet my hate/love relationship with the song continues, when ATB throws a sick groove change/breakdown (?) into the rhythm. Then FINALLY, I hear that low 8th string getting played by the guitar. I forgot to mention, but a lot of the grooves aren't as low tone-wise as they were on Rareform
. It's pretty damn good, actually. We get the clean part again next, but this time with a sick solo instead of singing. ATB still rocks at incredibly tight soloing. The song averages out after that, with yet another chorus repeat section. Dare I say it drags? Aspiration was a beautiful yet extremely heavy song, but didn't have to fall into these ruts. I'm more than ready to move on to the next song by the time it finally ends. This song is gonna take a couple more listens for me to "get" it.
Track 6: Sleeper
Anyone remember Isolation Theory off of Forging a Future Self
? This intro sounds almost identical to it. Which is a good thing.
And it gets better. Damn, this is a throwback song, a direct thank-you to their fans. It sounds like it was a canned song from FAFS, very reminiscent of that album. Listening to it again, it just gets better. They take the fast thrash rythm, almost like Arch Enemy, and manage to fuck our minds a new one with their groove beats that seem to dance around the time signatures, landing on an unexpected beat yet coming together in the end to form a cohesive, almost mathematical whole. More than anything, this song is an amazing bridge between the styles of FAFS and Rareform
. If you've listened to both, you'll know what I mean. Just to permeate my belief that this song is from FAFS, it ends in what seems like a minute after it began and lacks any sort of guitar solo. I love it though, its a welcome reprieve from the last blunder.
Track 7: Promises Kept
Here we go again... seriously? Acoustic guitar chords for an intro? Does anyone remember the classical acoustic masterpiece that was the intro to Pi (the Mercury God of Infinity)? Thats what I miss. The beginning just screams "GENERIC" to me. You know where this is going: it follows those damn metalcore progressions, with some faint singing in the background. Seriously, who is gonna sing this live? I'm looking forward to how they do it.
Then we come to the chorus, but this is the weird thing: I like it. I don't actually like it, I love
it. Singing. In After the Burial. The whole "Torn between the roots of the earth and the sky" lyric is really... catchy? It doesn't feel like After the Burial when its sung, but its actually good. Not to mention we got some sweep arpeggios going in the background. fapfapfapfapfap...
Anyway, I think I found this album's Aspiration: its "positive", but still heavy. The chorus comes again, and I find myself looking forward to it
rather than the guitar work between it. What the fuck happened to me? We then get probably the most interesting breakdown of the entire album, though probably not the most time-signature bending. It goes straight into the next song... which boy, is a damn
good finisher. Anyway, if there is any good "metalcore" song on this album, I guess this one would have to do it. Nowhere near the beauty that is Aspiration, though.
Track 8: Encased in Ice
First of all, this is a better sounding title. It sounds "metal", which is good, since ATB is a "metal" band. The beginning picks up right at the end of Promises Kept, making it feel like one big epic song. If you do consider it one big epic, then it has a BRUTAL second half to it. I hope they actually play this live, one song into the other like it is on the album. That would be awesome.
Anyways, we get a midpaced, driving rhythm, not unlike LOG's Redneck. Its something I would be content blasting from my car, wearing cool sunglasses
and nodding my head in complete subtle badassery
while flipping off the little kids I pass on the street
. And Anthony yells, "MOTHAFUCKA COME ON!" really fast, which is pretty funny yet badass at the same time, only adding to the awesomeness of the situation. Its different territory for ATB, but I think they hit a sweet spot. If you happen to be wondering, this is the song at the end of the In Dreams
album teaser that was uploaded to youtube recently. Continuing on, there's a pretty cool part where it just cuts to anthony screaming with the bass and drums in the background, which only make it more brutal when the guitars come back in. The song continues in a very mature fashion when it comes to structure. Its really catchy. There's also a great guitar solo in the same vein as Meshuggah's New Millenium Cyanide Christ, which is a cool cacophonous tapping technique that I love. Hell, even the riff after the solo sounds like the main riff of New Millienum Cyanide Christ. Hey, good band to steal your influence from. I will say that the song ends pretty abruptly after that section, and doesn't deviate a ton from the main melody. The main melody is catchy though, so it scores high in my books. A pretty good ending to an interesting listen.
OVERALL ALBUM RATING: 8.7/10
I've got mixed feelings about In Dreams, but in the end the good left more of an impression on me than the bad. First of all, its a really fast listen. And I mean, really fucking fast. It was over before I knew it. Even though Rareform
is technically only a minute longer, it feels twice as long musically. Despite all that, I'm still extremely glad I got In Dreams
, as it's still light years ahead of most other young guys in metal bands these days. Is it as good as Rareform
? No. Not by a longshot. I think its gonna be impossible for ATB to top how amazing and revolutionary that album was to the metalcore genre. There are great riffs on this album, but nothing that truly grabbed my head and controlled my thoughts for days upon end, like Cursing Akhenaten, Berzerker, Aspiration, or Ometh did. Hell, even A Steady Decline from FAFS. However, I laud ATB for taking a stab in a strange new direction for their style. They've managed to cross new and old material to form a strange and beautiful beast of an album.
If you're new to ATB, get Rareform
. Now. That album was better than sex imao. After you've appreciated their style, move to this. Seasoned ATB fans such as myself will find, in the end, a great record here. I know I'm going to be listening to this for weeks, trying to wrap my head around it as a whole. My opinon could change, who knows? Its a step in an interesting, yet exciting direction. NOW FOR CHRIST'S SAKE HEADLINE A GODDAMN TOUR!
P.S. If you've actually taken the time to read this, thanks a ton. I didn't realize I had so much shit to say until I actually started typing this down. I was just so happy to finally get my ears around this recording that I had to purge my feelings about it somewhere. I realize this site gets a lot of "purist" metalheads, but if you're musically talented in any form I'm sure you can appreciate what ATB does. No, they're not Meshuggah, but they're still damn good. This is my first album review on this site also, so thanks for reading!