without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
When bands sell-out, they usually compromise their current sound. A little less complexity here, a catchier chorus there and perhaps add in a slicker production. In Flames, previously an influential melodic death metal band, dropped much of the melo-death and began progressively modernizing their music in a way like I described. Despite the obvious differences between the two eras, but there is still some remnants of the old sound in their music. With this, I haven't found many bands that have utterly abandoned their previous sound to such an extent as Embodyment here. One of the earliest deathcore bands, releasing their debut in 1998, their last two albums were completely in the vein of alternative rock like Alkaline Trio and similar ilk. Line up changes seem to be the cause of that, but all of that aside...is it worthwhile?
I try to avoid judging changing bands based on what they were and try to look at them as a new entity. Even with that in mind, this is simply a poor album. Production wise, it stands up. Everything seems mixed clearly, the individual instruments have breathing space and the vocals aren't turned up in the mix like they usually are on pop records. The songwriting...ugh. The first half of the album is completely interchangeable. The songs all bleed together and sound indistinct to the point of ridiculousness. Heaven is a Letter Bomb initially has the tiniest amount of individuality before it falls into the trappings of modern rock bland choruses. Binge and Purge has something resembling effort with it's more metallic riffs and slightly more involved guitar work, but that's about the extent of it. The album ends with another relatively decent song, but those two aren't nearly worthwhile enough to go out of your way to look for.
One of the main issues that this album has are the awful vocals. The guitar work can be decent, but usually sticks to the Creed school of strumming faceless chords to fill space while the vocals take center stage. Those vocals though...he can sing in the most literal definition of the word, but he's so goddamn soulless. No range, no emotion, just the same bland tone throughout the entire album. He would sound completely at home rocking out in front of a stadium of teenyboppers singing songs meticulously crafted by professional songwriters for optimum radio play. No identity, no passion. He makes the vocalist from Inquisition sound like a fucking party animal in terms of emotion displayed. Except while Dagon's vocals work, this guy sucks even fronting some of the most radio friendly stuff I've heard in a while. If you're wondering about the rest of the instruments, they're just there. That's the best description I can come up with such non-descript playing.
This band never seems to have really been any good. Embrace the Eternal has some decent death metal/deathcore going on, but is again ruined by the vocalist (a different one, but sucky one nonetheless.) Even if you like Creed, Matchbox 20, Staind or other similar “rock” bands, avoid this and actively destroy any copies that might miraculously remain. You'll be doing the world a true service.
While a change in style for a band can sometimes be refreshing, it can just as inversely be a misstep. As for Embodyment, while the abrupt stylistic shift between Embrace the Eternal and The Narrow Scope of Things may have worked, their continued exploration of alternative rock may not have been the best move. While Embrace the Eternal was relentless in its raucousness and The Narrow Scope of Things solid in its screamo-meets-alternative rock-medley, Hold Your Breath does not fare as well.
Sean Corbray, after making his debut on The Narrow Scope of Things, is still the vocalist here. On The Narrow Scope of Things, fans of the band’s original line-up still rejoiced that Corbray maintained some of the fury that, albeit of a different sort, the original vocalist started. As per his introduction into a band that would be forever changed as a result of his arrival, Corbray at least brought depth, character, and personality to Embodyment. However, on Hold Your Breath, those aforementioned attributes are missing. Gone are the tortured wails, lost is the honesty, and nowhere is the embattled attitude that defined the band's earlier work. Yet it’s not that Corbray’s singing is bad--because it’s actually quite good. It’s just that a more technically proficient singer has replaced the vocalist of the same name who, on merely an album prior, bristled with conviction. So what happened?
The band “matured,” that’s what happened.
Although the rest of the band managed to improve their already-established technical prowess a smidgeon more, and although their ability to write a catchy song is more adept, Hold Your Breath sees Embodyment as perhaps too focused on minutiae. Yes, the production is flawless; yes, every note is spot-on; yes, the timbre of every instrument sounds crisp and clear; yes, most of the songs are pretty downright catchy; yes, the band are at the top of their game; yes, this still sounds like Embodyment. There’s just no conviction. It’s true that the band’s integrity to write good music is still evident here; they just forgot their purpose.
Thus, Embodyment sacrificed meaningful, challenging music for pop-oriented, semi-derivative choruses on Hold Your Breath. And still, the music on Hold Your Breath is not bad at all; it’s just lacking in comparison to the music on the two albums prior. Songs like “Decade,” “K-9,” and “A Season’s End” frankly don’t compare to similarly formatted songs from The Narrow Scope of Things like “Winter Kiss,” “One Less Addiction,” and “Confessions.” Whereas Embrace the Eternal was complex and The Narrow Scope of Things diverse, Hold Your Breath is neither, nor is it even its own entity. It just sort of exists.
So while there are some standout tracks like “Yours Truly,” the opener, and “Cruise Control,” the closer, Hold Your Breath falls short. It’s not bad; it’s just not great, either. Its likeability is most likely determined by how much of an Embodyment fan one was at the time this album was first released. Otherwise, for those who do not already hold Embodyment dear, Hold Your Breath is a rather uninspired, passive pop-rock album that one can live without.