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Burning the Masses was another one of those bands I got into for all the wrong reasons back during a time when I was young, dumb, and vulnerable to making blind purchases based on totally imbecilic reasons. This was the sort of unfortunate logic that led to me buying turds that I would begin to regret years later, like Condemned's Realms of the Ungodly, but it seems to have served me reasonably well here. Keep in mind I saw this in a store and immediately decided to buy it for two relatively moronic reasons: 1) the cover art is absolutely stunning (like, seriously, don't you want to just stare into it for a while?), and 2) HOLY SHIT DID YOU KNOW THAT THAT GUY FROM DISFIGURING THE GODDESS DOES VOCALS HERE!?!?! And so, with these facts in mind and a misguided 14-year-old's logic guiding my brain, I decided to pick it up without having heard a second of the music beforehand. It seems to have served me pretty well, though - while I don't outright worship it in the way that most fans of it seem to, I think Offspring of Time is an interesting and generally respectable piece of work.
Burning the Masses seem to exist right in the middle of the general tech-wankery scene, and don't really receive any distinction from other bands in that same section of the scene like Brain Drill and Beneath the Massacre, but the more I listen to Offspring of Time the more I feel like that might be somewhat of a disservice to the amount of thought that was put into this album. Again, it's not perfect, but in the realm of tech-death it's doing quite a bit of unique things that I doubt many listeners have sincerely caught onto. Burning the Masses isn't really as based on death metal as a lot of tech-death bands are; in fact, as absurd as it sounds, I think the best way to describe this would be to say that it sounds like some sort of halfway point between Vektor and Brain Drill. The guitar tone isn't constructed with a death metal sound in mind whatsoever, instead being this simultaneously crunchy, lush, warm and flourishing tone that makes the more noodle-driven parts of BTM's music turn from the usual dry, ostentatious tech-death exercises in skill to lively, melodically vivid displays of energy. Burning the Masses don't always express technicality by setting their speed knob to 11, either - a lot of it's built up through dreamy arpeggiated chords that remind me of something you'd hear in one of the more Gorguts-minded technical death metal bands, played over rhythm guitar tracks churning out thumpy mid-paced thrashy beats or wandering slam-like passages. The thrash influence on this album is actually pretty difficult to escape once you become consciously aware of it - it's not as evident in the drumming or vocals, obviously; but as I've said, the melodies will generally remind you of Vektor more than any existing death metal band. Even the band's solos (which are not only technical and flashy enough to distinguish themselves from the riffs on Offspring of Time, but genuinely good as far as solos go) could fit in with some of the most fundamental speed metal bands you can think of. The band's adherence to traditionalism alongside their music is nearly undeniable.
Between the guitar tone and the abstract, warm (but not necessarily cheery) sense of melody, Offspring of Time is pretty hard to make heads or tails of. It's an extremely dense album, with seemingly every element of the mix boosted to just the right amounts in order to totally immerse the listener in massive waves of sound. The guitars on this album will drown you. Upon first listen, one might disregard this approach to mixing as being overly synthetic, but on the other hand, this also means that Burning the Masses have a whole bunch of layers to their music that they can potentially peel away to alter the dynamics of their music, and when they do, the contrast is palpable and appreciated. The moments of quiet but shrieking, droning chords on this album feel genuinely peaceful, compared to the spiraling and alien sound the band use in most other situations. That's a level of subtlety seldom seen in even the more blatantly intellectually-minded breed of technical death metal bands, so it's even more impressive that Burning the Masses manage to pull it off in a way that, at first glance, makes them appear to be any old standard follower of Origin or Spawn of Possession.
So, is this album interesting? Why, sure! Is it the holy grail of tech-death? Well, maybe if you're stupid, you might think so! But I'll just assume you're not; I'll assume you think the vocals don't really contribute as much to the music as they possibly can, in which case you'd be correct. Don't get me wrong, Big Chocolate is a perfectly capable vocalist for the more abstract and unconventional styles of death metal, but on an album like this I feel like a bit more vocal variety might make the entire presentation go from "bordering on great" to absolutely stellar. Cameron's style of low, indistinct, and distorted gurgles (paired with the occasional high-pitch shrieks) fits well with the album in a basic sense - they're weird enough to suit the guitars - but I feel like it's a wee bit too monotonous to carry the album through its entire 40-minute running time. Look at how traditionally thrashy a lot of the riffs are - they could easily take a haunting clean singing passage or two! Even just a handful would give the album a bit more identity, that much more of a hook to linger in your mind. Furthermore, the riffs themselves aren't deathly interesting more often than not; if I'm to be honest, it's more like they're interesting to observe due to their construction and guitar tone, but they're nothing ground-breaking when you dissect the notes themselves and strip away the flashy guitar tone and overwhelmingly swarming production job. I also feel like the drum work could be improved at least a little bit - the drumming on the album is by all means technically proficient, but part of me expects a bit more from an album like this than simply a heaping load of fills and a bunch of blast blasts that are dispensed when needed. Speaking of the blasts, something feels strangely... off about them, almost like they don't add the amount of speed to the music that they should be adding? It might be the triggers, it might be the fact that the tempo throughout the band's songs tends to stay a bit too static for its own good, I'm not sure... but it definitely feels strange, and I don't think it's in a good way.
I dunno, it's not perfect, but I wouldn't say that that degrades its worth to a damning extent. This is a peculiar album, and while I don't really outright enjoy it that much, it's definitely interesting enough to warrant repeated listens. Burning the Masses are onto something genuinely original and fresh here, and if you're sick of the modern tech-death scene, this may very well be your answer. Worth a listen for taste-testing, at the very least.
Ah, Burning the Masses...one of the best modern technical death metal (although they do have evident influences of deathcore) bands I have ever heard. And that's my opinion on them after only hearing this album. I have not listened to the EP, nor their debut full-length. Why? Simply because I have not yet gotten around to it. But damn...if they are as good as this album, I'll have to listen to them soon. Anyway, I was recommended this album by a friend of mine, and I soon after purchased the CD without hearing it yet. I am so glad I did. This album is perfect.
Musically, this is a very technical, brutal, crushing, whatever the fuck adjective you want to describe it as. It has underlying melody, though. Take the first actual song (the second track) "Immersed Entity" for example. It's chock full of tasteful sweeps, breakdowns, and a solo that is absolutely to die for! Sweeping is a very common guitar technique on this album and is utilized on all of the songs, adding a technical yet sometimes melodic aspect to the overall sound. No, this is not technical wankery in the veins of Brain Drill. Far from it, actually. This band does not focus on mindless speed and technicality, but rather on creating a nice flow while being technical at the same time. Plus, the band relies on the breakdown technique a lot as well. But as with not overusing technicality, they do not overuse breakdowns. You're not going to hear anything that resembles Emmure or Chelsea Grin anywhere on this album, so don't freak out when you see that this band is tagged under the deathcore genre in Wikipedia. The solos on this album must be mentioned, as they are flawless. Whether it's the sweep-picked solo on "Immersed Entity", the very melodic, yet technical solo on "Resonance of the Foul", or the solo on "Vicarious Wrath" (which to me resembles The Black Dahlia Murder), they're all amazing. A very pleasing surprise are the songs "Overseer Fixation Pt. 1" and "Overseer Fixation Pt. 2". While Pt. 1 surprises us with a very clean, acoustic melody, Pt. 2 begins with face-ripping blast beats and insane tremolo picking. It's almost a black metal song in the beginning! Whether you're a fan of sweeping, melody, tasteful and technical solos or breakdowns, you'll find plenty of all of these elements in this album.
One thing that I didn't realize until I bought the album and looked in the booklet was that Cameron Argon, better know as Big Chocolate, performs the vocals on this album. Big Chocolate is not well known in the death metal genre, but to those who know his works, he is very talented and well respected. His work with Disfiguring the Goddess is absolutely amazing and he also does work as an electronica artist. But on this album, he provides the listener with insane guttural death growls and some pretty fucking sweet pig squeals. If I could compare his vocals to that of other artists, I would compare him to Chris Barnes, Derek Rydquist, and Jonny Davy. The vocals on this album can be credited as a major powerhouse. They accompany the lyrics, which often remind me of the intellectual side of Death's album "Symbolic". They are certainly not the vulgar and grotesque lyrics a lot of death metal bands are known for. The songs are hymns for intellectual healing. Some of my favourite lyrics come from the song "Offspring of Time". It is as if this album was written in the style of an English class textbook. Maybe today's youth should study the lyrics of this album to improve their grammar! Note the first verse of the song:
"Rows by rows, headless statues resonating. This ceremony of cement
resembles our thirst for humanity and feeling. My blind eye: the offspring
The man behind the kit is a huge part of this album's greatness. Chason's drum work on this album is thunderous, tenacious, and technically delicious. He reminds me a bit of the late Vitek from the band Decapitated. His influence is obvious here. In fact, any death metal fan will probably notice this by only the first few songs on the album. Whether he's using double bass and thrashy drum lines, such as the song "Lair of the Blind Ones", or the standard tech death drumming such as in "Eclipse of Autonomy", he is a varied and skillful drummer. Without him, this album would definitely not be as satisfying.
This album will leave a mark on you the first time you hear it...It will possess you. It will make you crave more. It will call you back to it. You will listen to it hundreds of times all the way through and keep coming back to it time after time. Maybe now I'll check out their other stuff. I eagerly await a new album, and even though Big Chocolate is not in the band anymore, I am sure whenever they have a new album out, it will be just as awesome!
Okay, I liked Mind Control, but I don't like it as much as Offspring of Time. Big Chocolate fucking wrecks with this band, to be honest, and every musician is capable of showcasing their skills while managing to play with the other members instead of playing 'follow the leader'. He's got great guttural growls and ripping lows; the kind of stuff that would make your average scene kid shit his pants. The opening track, Immersed Entity, is a great technical song, and the 80's sounding solo near the end is beyond any form of description. Each track flows into another seamlessly, and yet stays fresh and interesting instead of the contrary. But now... The instruments.
Vocals: I already mentioned this in the above paragraph, but I'll say it again: He fucking rips, man. Big Chocolate never fails to impress me with his vocal displays, and he certainly found a niche with Burning the Masses. Now, I don't know who penned the vocals, but they need to be mentioned. They're cryptic, strange, and very, very interesting. I've always had a bit of a hard on for 'deep' or 'cryptic' lyrics for some reason; I can't really explain it.
Guitars: The riifs, man! The riifs! Both guitarists play insane lead; never before had I heard sweep picking scales being played as rhythm until Vicarious Wrath sledgehammered my face. That's just one example, though, you can find mad chops on any song of your choice. Seriously, take your pick. Tsar Bomb definitely deserves a mention as well; it's a really nice break from their usual fanfare and delves into a great song to smoke to. The guitars are melodious and work together to create a masterpiece.
Bass: I'm really impressed with this guy; he plays right along with the two guitarists very well. Sometimes when I turn the bass up all the way in my speakers I can hear him playing the scales in unison with the guitars. I'll admit, I don't have much of an ear for bass; it gets drowned out a lot in metal. However, I can hear him on his album, and he's got skill; as a matter of fact he's playing a pretty sweet lead riff right now as I listen to it.
Drums: I had to save the best for last. I've always had a soft spot for drums; I play them sometimes but it's recreational since I mostly stick to guitar. His name's Chason... Chason Pussy. Nah, not really, but I digress. Anyway, throughout the CD I've been mesmerized by his playing. He essentially reminds me of a much heavier Danny Carey; there's good syncopation in every song and solid, face grinding blast beats. Dude's crazy.
Overall: Perfect album; I really can't ask for more. Except titties.