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Supreme freestylin' Southern sludgegrind! - 80%

SculptedCold, February 7th, 2006

One thing can always be irrefutably noted about Soilent Green; despite the genuine and widespread lauding they have always received (and even moreso nowadays since all the shit they've had), there has always been an equally large number of listeners who subtly comment that they're actually not so spectacular as one might be led to believe by all their press. Some might even say pedestrian, and that regardless of the fact that they are also gifted with a unique sound.

That unique sound is key. While it was less pronounced and so harder to latch onto as a positive aspect of their sound on previous albums, Confrontation sees Soilent Green resting on augmented laurels. Both the sound production and songwriting approaches on this album successfully highlight what makes Soilent Green at once so refreshing and yet so difficult to fully enjoy or appreciate. As others have noted, they do not play a straightforward mix of any particular genre; death metal fans coming to this could easily be put-off by the hardcore-ish vocals, grind fans will fail to find any repetitive, catchy riffs, hardcore fans would be lost with the lack of breakdowns or conventional song structure... and yet Confrontation is still a tour de force that has all the impact that such genres can muster without falling into the pitfalls of any. Arguably, it is a perfect mix, but it is as easy to argue; especially without having digested the album multiple times; that it lacks all the things that make those genres interesting. So what is it exactly that Soilent Green have mastered on this excellent disc?

Well there are two things that set them apart. The first, and most noticeable, are the numerous, distinctly Southern flavoured interludes peppered throughout. They're fab, they really are. They're short, so we are not distracted from the real meat, and they punctuate the otherwise hard to differentiate morass of metal. Furthermore, the metal that Soilent Green has penned here is a less varied affair on a macrocosmic level; there isn't as much in the way of bluesy, sludgy crawls as on previous records. They are still there, but they are fewer in number and more smoothly integrated, leaving the Southern flavour this band is known for to be found conveniently in the interludes. It is a good approach, and one that adds a lot more colour to the album, especially compared to previous work.

Secondly, and much less noticable, are the guitars. Oh these guitars...how to get a grip on them. Soilent Green really don't play riffs, in general. This is entirely atypical guitaring from a band considered part of the grind genre. There are an extreme few actual riffs, and no repetition of them. Instead, they are happy to meander along and explore melodic and rhythmic ideas in a completely linear fashion, pausing at no time to repeat past material, but forging ever onwards and creating new, expansive themes. This is doubtless the main reason that Soilent Green are frequently rated below their hype; it is simply impossible to appreciate this music unless you are listening closely and following the guitars on their almost random journeys. No songs end how they begin, and no songs repeat motifs within their own structures. Even given strict attention, it is very easy for this material to go right over the head.

Despite this, Soilent Green have crafted a stellar collection of songs. While lacking any form of catchiness outside of some very shortlived grooves and a couple of memorable expressions (the straining guitars on Pretty Smiles & Shattered Teeth come to mind), those guitar journeys are nevertheless very interesting, and kind to repeat listenings. Indeed, this material just gets better and better with repeat spins. About the only criticism aside from general ungraspability (I don't care that it isn't a word) are the vocals. Ben Falgoust is capable at what he does, hell, his vocals are great. For a song or two. Unfortunately, there are a lot of good lyrics, and so he's more or less always shouting, in his forceful but extremely monotone and unvaried way. After just a couple of songs, I personally find myself just blanking out the vocals from my mind and concentrating on the guitars, otherwise they would begin to annoy me. Because they hardly ever stop. And they never change. So much so, that it seems like every song has the exact same vocal track, which is never a good sign. If it wasn't for the vocals, I would probably be inclined to rate Confrontation in the high 80s or low 90s, but as it is, it finds itself slightly mutilated by Falgoust's constant attrition on the listener.

Otherwise, this is an excellent and direct piece of pure metal, and undoubtedly Soilent Green's most impactuous album so far.