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The first thing that drew my attention to this band was the female vocalist; a sight that is uncommon in the metal world despite the success and talent of the few that do exist, such as Iwrestledabearonce and Abnormality (of Rock Band 2 fame). But upon closer inspection, Straight Line Stitch do virtually everything in the band extraordinarily well, and they accomplish most of this sound by the restrictions they place on themselves, so the music is at the same time chaotic yet melodic and combines aspects of many genres into one family friendly package.
The combination of genres really defines Straight Line Stitch, and what makes the album a refreshing and intriguing listen from start to finish. Metalcore at its base should be a combination of genres into a new sound with modern influences. Straight Line Stitch demonstrates this on numerous occasions, such as the grind blast intro in the first song, and even tinges of gothic metal on What You Do to Me. Tracks like Black Veil and Adult Cinema bring in heavier elements of deathrash, and Taste of Ashes has the subtle touch of deathcore which in and of itself is a contradiction.
The guitars maintain the same distortion on all songs, which at some points sounds like the sound is being changed only a little bit, but songs like Word Made Flesh feature heavy distortion without messing too much with the overall tone. Chugging is a frequent aspect of the guitars to back Alexis Brown’s fantastic vocals, and vary from the standard low chugs to tremolo riffing on Seneca Tragedy and Eucharist. The skill of the guitar players and the variety they serve up is almost unquestionable.
That being said many riffs could simply be cut and paste onto other songs and sound just as fine, but that is a minor flaw. Something must be said for the riffing on Black Veil, which in equal measure with the vocals, invokes tremendous amounts of rage and is the reason that cut is one of the best of the album. However, since this is a metalcore album, you won’t find any guitar solos, but there are a good deal of guitar leads, which really adds the finishing touches to some songs, like on Seneca Tragedy and the ripping mosh chants on Taste of Ashes.
It is a rare occasion that I can devote an entire section to bass, and I am thoroughly pleased. The bassist is part of what makes the band different, as he pulls together the rhythm and melodic parts of the drums and guitars, respectively, which is exactly what the instrument should be used for in the first place. On the chorus of Eucharist, the bass acts as the driving force, leading to some of the most exceptional head banging, and provides a solid background later for some noodly guitar tremolos. On Adult Cinema, we are graced with one of the best bass solos I’ve heard in a while (sorry Rhapsody of Fire, Aeons of Raging Darkness isn’t even close). These are only two of the most prominent examples where the bass drives the soul.
Drumming is probably the weakest part of this album, but that is not to say it is bad; far from it. It is simply standard. It takes many of the guitar following bass pedals common in traditional metalcore and melodic death metal . Other times it simply goes on a nice consistently double bass pedal rhythm, and occasionally ventures to some simpler patterns in more tender moments of the album. This would be a good time to bring up the lack of breakdowns. Normally this would be a turn off for me, but you won’t find yourself missing them. Instead of drawn out and overtly simple polyrhythms that could be ripped off the latest I Declare War or Veil of Maya albums, we are given crushing slow sections that border more with sludge/thrashcore than breakdowns. There is also only one instance on the album where we hear the annoying crash cymbal used so often in breakdowns.
And that is in part of what makes Straight Line Stitch so different from other metalcore bands out there. They are experimental in how they challenge the accepted norm and incorporate unique elements into the music (like the twist ending final track), but they stay within the realms of enjoyment whereas a band like Iwrestledabearonce is crazy and frequently lose their way. Comparisons are also inevitable between the two, as female vocalists who use harsh vocals are quite a bit more than a dime a dozen. For the most part, the two are antithetical to each other, where Iwrestledabearonce incorporate elements of jazz, electronic, and technical metal with vocals that get you hyped up, Straight Line Stitch takes the other corner.
Their music is far more emotional and borrows from thrashcore, hardcore, deathrash, and gothic metal. Alexis Brown has a voice that is much more emotionally evocative than that of Iwrestledabearonce. One moment she is soothing you on What You Do to Me, and the next she is ripping at her vocal chords in anger on Word Made Flesh. Straight Line Stitch also writes unique songs and craft different melodies for each song while giving each its own distinct style, while Iwrestledabearonce quickly lose their novelty in the 30 minute albums they put out now.
Let’s get back to the vocals though, which are easily the best part of the album. As mentioned above, she puts her all into every word she says, and it doesn’t take a professional music critic to tell you that she wrote and believes in these lyrics (because I certainly am not). The lyrics offer a different perspective, but they still deal mostly with relationships and the lot, so they can be annoying after a while, but you cannot deny her conviction.
Another weak point in the vocals is the appearance of Jamey Jasta on Taste of Ashes, whom I loathe with an absolute passion. Disgustingly weak growl/shouts try to add an edge to an already brutal song that does not need it. Legendary front man my foot. On the bright side, her vocals more than make up for it with the sonic evisceration of that song and Word Made Flesh. My final point on that topic will be that quite simply; she can sing. All too rare in the realm of metalcore, it brings that gothic feel to the album, especially on the closing acoustic track, Yesterday’s Gone.
Yes kiddies, this album ends on an acoustic track, and one of the best within any genre, right up there with Bard’s Song – In The Forest (which is saying a lot). Beautiful intertwining dual acoustic guitars provide the backdrop for a mournful vocal performance about a cheesy love story. Sorry, but I just don’t get it, which I suppose is why many of us listen to metal in the first place.
One of the most important aspects of this album is the moderate amount of experimentation. Adding in different elements from polar opposite genres and making it work, while avoiding many of the pitfalls of bands of the same genre is now small task, so hats off to you there. It is not the radicalism of Iwrestledabearonce of the ignorance of Abnormality, and that’s why Straight Line Stitch’s differences make them successful. So many hats off in that respect.
Most of the instrumentation is fantastic and sets a good backdrop, despite some lacking drums. Cheesy lyrics will be turnoffs for some, but the lack of breakdowns will attract others. Definitely warrants a listen due to unique vocals as well. Tracks to look for: Taste of Ashes, Black Veil, and Seneca Tragedy. Also, they put on a fine live show. Kudos for the Star Wars references from a dedicated nerd.