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Let me start off by saying that I'm a big fan of Emmure. Like many of the slam bands I fancy, they're great stupid music, and while I'm not going to listen to them expecting Atheist-esque progressive sections or anything remotely resembling intellect, they know how to pull off catchy breakdowns better than anyone else (and are apparently the only ones who know how to make entire songs out of said breakdowns) and basically sate my need for poppy music. I'm even a fan of the band's recent works, and their alleged break from form, Felony, happens to be my favorite work by the band. Despite the relative simplicity of their work, it seems that Emmure are the only ones who can actually pull off their own sound, and Annotations of an Autopsy's EP Dark Days just reinforces this point even more.
I haven't heard this band's second album (not yet, at least), but if the rumors about it being death metal are true (I say "rumors", because the "death metal" album Before the Throne of Infection turned out to be deathcore), it seems like Annotations of an Autopsy have taken a relatively large stylistic leap for the second time in their career. I've only listened to Welcome to Sludge City in any detail, and that EP most certainly stomps this one into the ground.
Despite what someone who associates Emmure with being hanged, drawn and quartered might tell you, the main problem with Dark Days is not its inherent Emmure influence. Nay: in fact, I'd say the problem is that there isn't enough Emmure here. The primary influence appears to be Emmure, sure, but there are elements cut-and-pasted from practically any deathcore band you could think of here: chugs from Emmure, the chant vocals of old AOAA, blast sections picked up from Thy Art Is Murder, distant guitar melodies from Oceano, and the riffs of Carnifex. Though there's nothing really bad about any of these elements (except for the chant vocals and chugs), the end result is the feeling that Annotations of an Autopsy really can't decide what the fuck they even want to do anymore, and to make it worse, these elements are spread unevenly among the songs. I'd hardly be able to tell that these four tracks were from the same band did they not all have the same vocals and production job.
The problem with the Emmure-esque breakdowns can be traced to both the actual riffs and the production job. For one, the chugs don't really "bounce" like Emmure's - instead, they push onwards with a variety of beats, be it a blasting double-bass or a simple rocking cymbal-snare beat. But THAT'S NOT HOW EMMURE DO EMMURE AND IT'S NOT HOW YOU SHOULD DO EMMURE EITHER. Assuming AOAA aren't fucking retarded, I can probably guess the reason that this album's drum beats aren't catchy pairs of 16th kicks packed around each guitar note - because those don't transition well to the next section of song, especially if you're not going to make your next riff another breakdown. But that takes a lot of power out of the breakdowns, and if your breakdowns aren't catchy, well shit, you might as well become a full-on death metal band at that point. Production-wise, the album is thick, but relatively devoid of bass. This is suicide for any band even remotely near Emmure musically. Where are the bass drops and thumpy sections that would drive a moshpit to destroy itself? And for that matter, where are the horror chords and nu-metal tinged sections? And why are the songs all more than four minutes long, instead of averaging around 2:30? It feels like Annotations of an Autopsy only brought as much Emmure to their game as they thought they needed to gain a larger audience. Boo.
The vocals are, frankly, really fucking bad. I'm a big fan of AOAA's vocals on past albums, but this is just sad, not to mention the victim of more mix-and-matching. This album has barky, try-hard angry shouts, and the concept itself is fine, but shouts of this quality shouldn't be reaching my ears at all unless I go to YouTube and type in "Emmure vocal cover true-azz nigga shit straight outta Compton". On the more blatantly Emmure tracks (those being the first and last), there are a few poorly synchronized gang shouts that are slightly more pleasant than getting a splinter in your bare foot and spending the next hour peeling flesh away to pull it out. There are also these ridiculously out-of-place self-musing groans, similar to Lamb of God or Pantera. I'll give AOAA the benefit of the doubt here and assume that Phil Anselmo simply kept walking in and interrupting their vocal takes in the studio, because I refuse to accept that a band that recorded such a nice little EP at one point would resort to such impertinent vocals. First and foremost in quantity, though, are the aforementioned shouts, that so obviously sound like an attempted ripoff of Frankie Palmeri that they might have as well credited him with the vocals on Dark Days.
The opening of "Reznov" has a decent chuggy riff backed up by a slow but catchy blast beat, and I'd be gladly listening to Dark Days if the entire EP was based around that section, but it's not - it's based around trying to rip off as many pieces of Emmure as possible and then superglue them to their collage made out of more ripped-off pieces from totally different bands. But, as reason would suggest, it's ridiculously stupid putting toast and used tampons together on a canvas and trying to make a masterpiece out of it. I'd cry sellout here, but fuck it, I like Felony, for God's sake; and it feels so redundant to trash such a stupid half-assed blend of music for the artists' intentions, anyways.
This EP was made for Emmure fans, and I love Emmure and hate this, so yeah, it's pretty shit.