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Above anything else, The Faceless' Autotheism is a problematic album. I did enjoy Planetary Duality quite a bit, and there are plenty of moments on Autotheism that recall The Faceless' past achievements. The central style finds itself at a crossroads between modern tech death and Dream Theater-variety progressive metal; the mention of that combination alone should spark some doubts, but The Faceless can, and often do make it work in their favour. Having just recently seen them headline the 2014 Summer Slaughter tour with the likes of Archspire, Rings of Saturn etc., there's no doubt The Faceless can bring it to the table in terms of sheer technical instrumentation. The guitars entwine excellently with Lyle Cooper's drumwork, and the guitars navigate the album's more challenging parts with style. That's not what's wrong with Autotheism.
I usually love it when bands put a progressive, or unexpected swing on a genre like tech death- most of the time it gives the music a tinge of spontaneity that may have otherwise been lost in the sea of sweeps and robotic notation. The Faceless have certainly made themselves out to be a band who takes the road less travelled in terms of technical death metal. Allusions to Dream Theater, multi-part epics and clean vocals are all well-off the beaten path for the style. It should by all means work, but by the end of Autotheism I'm left thinking like the album might have been best contained within the tech death sphere. The Faceless remain good at what they know, but whenever there's a detour, the vision feels undercooked.
There's no better example of this than the multi-part suite and title piece. In keeping with the other less-successful prog epics I've heard, "Autotheism" offers up some interesting ideas, but ultimately falls apart under its own weight. There is ambition but no coherence, nothing to congeal the epic together as a definitive musical statement. If a band is intent on devoting a third of their album to a composition, I would hope I would leave it with a strong impression of the band's sound. After a pseudo-orchestral overture, The Faceless proceed to follow the footsteps of metal genius Devin Townsend's style for several minutes (clean vocals and all) before finally diving into the prog death they're most comfortable with. As much as I love Devin Townsend, any imitators (of which there are several) I've heard fall far short of what they no doubt set out to accomplish. Devin's style was exciting because it was completely his. In the case of Autotheism, The Faceless seem to cling to their interpretation of his style, not least obvious of all being Michael Keene's halfhearted clean vocals, which seem kept afloat only through a mountain of harmonizing and post-prod effects. By the suite's second movement, things begin to pick up and we hear some good riffs, but it's not long before the suite reverts back to the same plodding pace and weak prog cliches.
Particularly in the third movement "Deconsecrate", it becomes obvious that The Faceless lack the personality and sincerity to pull off a lot of these progressive sections. Hearing the band perform their Townsend facsimile felt disingenuous enough, but the weirdest moments- most notably being a carnivalesque section wherein Keene croons "God is dead"- feel forced and joyless, as if The Faceless suddenly became aware they were taking themselves too seriously, but couldn't get themselves out of a rut in time before the epic finished. On the topic of serious things, it doesn't seem like The Faceless think atheism is any joke. They remind us of this stance in virtually every song and- all beliefs aside- their way of handling the subject in their music is possibly the most awful thing about the album. Whenever they're not depending on worn expressions and cliches in their lyrics, they're preaching some holier-than-thou New Atheist sanctimony that makes Christian rock look tolerable by comparison. I'm all onboard with iconoclasm and supposed free-thinking, but The Faceless' ideology seems to be directly in line with the "In this moment, I am euphoric" brand of online atheist crusaders who, I can only imagine, polish their Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens shrines in between bouts of cosplay internet porn. My own views on religion (or, more specifically, the hypocriticism of New Atheism) certainly paint this element of The Faceless in a more negative light than it may be for others, but take a track like "Hail Science" (kill me now), an interlude not unlike Radiohead's "Fitter Happier", only with an extra helping of cringeworthy anti-religious sentiment. From this and other sets of lyrics, I get the impression that The Faceless (like many of the fedora-bound internet gremlins you'll find lurking on the forums) place the blame of all human ills and indecency on religion and belief in a God that doesn't exist. If The Faceless agree with me that God is most likely a fabrication, then they should also acknowledge that it must be somewhere in human nature itself for people to do these shitty, ignorant things to one another. If God is truly dead, then we have only ourselves to blame.
At the album's best, Autotheism flirts with better-than-average tech death riffery and suggests some great potential in the prog metal sector as well. Each time I've finished listening through the album however, I can think of more problems I have with the album than things I enjoyed. If I may be diplomatic here, it's clear that The Faceless took a big risk in putting so much of the album aside to jump outside their shell and explore musically. That achievement feels dull in context when it ultimately just appears like they've jumped inside another shell, of a more uncompromising and visionary artist than they themselves are. The songwriting is generally bland and forgettable, and the concept is idiotic. I never thought I'd say this, but give me straight up tech death over this any day.
Back when Planetary Duality came out, if you told me The Faceless would release an album that would make it onto my best albums of the year list, I wouldn't believe it, yet in comes Autotheism, with The Faceless ditching the technical trendcore for a brilliant and melodic prog death sound reminiscent of Opeth, Persefone, and Kalisia's album Cybion. The Faceless have truly stepped it up in every single aspect, and I find myself spinning this album time after time, and I now know every word off the album.
The guitar work on here is much more enjoyable this time around, keeping the technical showboating to a minimum this time around (they kept the breakdowns to an absolute minimum this time too, which doesn't hurt), in favor of a heavily Opeth influenced style of death metal riffing, with lots of experimental chord progressions and rhythms. As far as the bass goes, there isn't much to say, it tends to follow the guitars and stay in the back of the mix. The drums are a lot of the same as well, blast beats galore. The guitar tone may be less desirable to some on here, most often using a lower gain, reminiscent of Gorod and Spawn Of Possession, but if you like their tone, more power to you. Much like the guitars, the vocals have evolved as well, with more frequent and much improved clean vocals, and sticking to a deep death growl more often than the "core" screams that plagued their earlier efforts. The greatest improvement of all here is the songwriting. No longer are their songs nonsensical riff-fests with vocals thrown over them, the movement between sections is much smoother, and doesn't seem nearly as disjointed as before.
This improvement does not come without its issues however, there are a few rather weak tracks throughout such as In Solitude, the disappointingly short Hymn Of Sanity, and the filler track, Hail Science, which could maybe be admired for its silliness, but it loses its charm after the first listen honestly. These shortcomings leave the listener a bit disappointed if they were expecting the rest of the album to be as phenomenal as the three-part album opener. Even though the rest of the album isn't as up to snuff as Autotheism in my opinion, it was a good buy for that track alone.
If you're a fan of Opeth's style of dramatic progressive extreme metal, this album is a must-have, even for just the intro tracks.
The Faceless are an oddity in the metal world in regards to their audience. They found a great deal of success playing conventional but technical deafkore with Cynic overtones (vocoder included) and then "progressed" into a modern tek-deaf band, all under the pretense of playing progressive music. Really, their songs were a disorganized pile of parts that never gelled together, and this album is no different in that regard. The main difference here is the more "mature" presentation (relative to their deafkore and tek-deaf peers) and the expanded repertoire of styles that run amok on here.
Touted as being a band for the "thinking man", The Faceless (at least beginning with their second album) were a bit more conceptually refined than their peers, but not much better. While they aren't whining about politics or dumb gore, they certainly are trying to enforce this image of being super intellectual and transcending their genre by talking about science and atheism being better than religion. The thing is, this is about as old hat as Clandestine's think for yourself lyrics and can only impress the new generation of metalheads who haven't yet discovered more worthier albums. The lyrics are literal atheism presented in what I assume is a metaphorical manner that really boils down to "science is god", all presented in a very religious "we're right, you're wrong" manner. This band would do well to read between the lines of early Slayer and At the Gates lyrics for a more effective approach at presenting these topics because by the third song I was rolling my eyes and found the predictability of it all to be unintentionally comedic. It started to feel like a family friendly version of Glen Benton's mid to late 90s propaganda, constantly being forced down on you, and the obnoxious music accompanying all this suggests a smug "better than thou" attitude that is about as immature as the manner in which they express themselves musically.
Here lies the problem that inhibits so many bands today. These guys certainly have the chops to play whatever music they want, but it's obvious that metal is not very high on that list. The songs really boil down to about a couple metal riffs in the middle of a series of pointless ornamentations. From the get go, the album starts off on a bad note, sounding like Philip Glass playing carousel music. When the "metal" happens, it sounds more like slow, depressive alternative rock replete with the clean vocals one would expect from the genre. This is further augmented by aesthetically unappealing growled vocals, which feel grotesquely out of place on such commercial and contrived music. Finally, some lines are harmonized using an auto-tune effect giving it the feel of a popular rock song from today, with the exception of a growled part. Admittedly, this is more of an intro to the album proper than my main point of contention, although these flaws are found in the other songs.
From the second track onward, we get well acquanted with the true nature of this dismal album. Pointless blasting and growling over what sounds to be a Sikth song more than any metal song, going into stop-start riffing, pointless jazz-fusion noodling, and a blasting riff with auto-tune vocals or those cringe worthy alternative rock clean vocals. Beneath all this are some hoaky keyboards that sound like something from an old Super Nintendo game if not something you would hear at a youth fair. This band makes the mistake so many other modern "progressive" bands make, which is to not make the music progress from one idea to the next after elaborating upon each idea fully, but rather throwing in a random order of bits and pieces from other genres and juxtaposing them in an ironic manner to give the impression that something "outside the box" has occured. The metal elements here are shoehorned moments in between what is really something Mike Patton would have done as a joke, but not even that adequate. Everything feels forced, like an instrumental suite where a musician tries to impress an audience by showing his vast array of technical skill, except here it's a whole band.
It gets more dismal when you realize the song structures boil down to some clean guitar noodling with underlying synth and Allan Holdsworth lead guitar playing going to a "metal" part which can be either deafkore, Sikth-esque indie chord abuse (djent), or stop-start mechanical riffs and then the clean (or auto-tuned) vocals over carousel music keyboards. The whole thing comes off as contrived and childish. This band is representative of a great burden that metal faces today: the fake progressive "intellectual" muzak. Dressing up post-hardcore and alternative rock with tremolo picking and throwing on a "religion sucks, science rules" concept over it all to feign some kind of "clever" attempt at metal, where the metal is just a vestigial component on what is otherwise unexceptional alternative rock and jazz fusion suite music. Considering their start as a deafkore band gave these guys a large fan base, the metal genre probably gives these guys more marketability, so they force those "heavy" parts to have a role in songs that don't need them, and their fanbase of younger metalheads will be unaware of the sham they have turned into because the mainstream who cares not for metal can accept this compromised, adult contemporary bastardization as opposed to, say, the second Atrocity album. A produced to perfection piece of useless plastic dressed up in a phony concept that evokes nothing more than the urge to hit stop. Hopefully, this band will stop pretending with the lies and turn into what they're hinting at: A Perfect Circle with odd-chord shapes and more impersonal lyrics. Even then, if these lyrics are anything to go by, they would need to work at that as well. A giant sham.
The Faceless have been a band well known for playing very technical music throughout their career. That being the case, it was a bit of a shock to see they took such a different route in their third full length "Autotheism". Though it was a surprise, it is easily their best written material to date. The Faceless have made a true masterpiece in "Autotheism", and show a different side of musicianship in an outstanding way. It may have been the cause of three lineup changes (rhythm guitar, bass guitar and vocals), or maybe four years of hard work. Whatever the case may be, this album shows huge promise for future releases and is a great start to a possible shift in musical genre for the band.
The album starts off with a mysterious feel to it, with a piano and orchestra introduction. After that, there is singing. Yes, singing. Michael Keene provides the cleans throughout the album, and does an excellent job in doing so. His voice has a mysterious tone to it, fitting in perfectly into the overall mood of the album. He and rhythm guitarist Wes Hauch give an outstanding guitar performance in “Autotheism”. Each solo is magnificently written and played flawlessly. These solos are some of the best I have ever heard before, and one is my favorite of all time. The ending solo in the second song “Emancipate” is perfectly written, perfectly played, and perfectly placed in the song. Michael Keene wrote some of the greatest music in metal in this album.
The highlight songs on the record have to be the first three, titled the “Autotheist Movement” tracks. The first of the three, “Create”, sets a slow and melodic beginning with mostly clean singing, and breaks into the fast tempo of “Emancipate”, which vastly changes throughout its seven and a half minute run. The third song, “Deconsecrate”, has numerous unique aspects to it. The song is started off with an organ, and leads into the mysterious voice of Michael Keene, with the controversial-to-some lyrics “All rise for the black mass. We are gathered here today in the funeral of your faith.” This album, as a whole, is very anti-religious, and the lyrics written by both Keene and vocalist George Ficco fit very well. The mood of the lyrics and the sound of the music coincide excellently, and makes for an amazingly written album all around. This song even has a saxophone solo, and is another awesome addition to an already captivating song.
Seeing how the guitars dominate the album, the bass is very hard to detect. Which is unfortunate, because bassist Evan Brewer is one of the best in the game (be sure to check out his solo stuff as well). In future albums, I hope to hear some bass solos. This would be an awesome addition in my book, and make for a more interesting and captivating album. The drumming, performed by Lyle Cooper, is very well done, and fits into the album very well. The production of the drums was excellently done as well, they sound great on the album in every song. Shortly after the release of “Autotheism”, Cooper left the band to pursue other music careers. Alex Rudinger (ex-The Haarp Machine) took the empty spot, and has a great deal of talent and potential, and I will be eager to hear the material he puts into the future albums by The Faceless.
I only have a couple things that I thought let down the album a bit. One, I would have loved to hear more of the bass. The talent of Evan Brewer is one of a kind, and using his talents more would be a huge success in future releases. Second, the seventh song of the album, titled “Hail Science”, was the intro to a very short song afterward. I thought this song was a bit of a letdown, because it was just talking, and has no actual music in it. If the seventh and eighth song were molded into one, and they put in another song somewhere on the album, I think I would have liked it more, but that’s just my opinion. Other than that, I see nothing wrong with this album. It may be a disappointment to the fans of only technical death metal that The Faceless played in their first two albums. If you’re a fan of progressive tech death, such as myself, you should love this album. If this is going to be the new approach by The Faceless, I am all for it.
The Faceless used to be a technical death metal outfit from California. “Autotheism,” its latest release, finds the band fully exploring the realm of progressive metal, and it can no longer be called just a “tech-death” band.
“Autotheism” sees The Faceless attempting to channel progressive bands such as Opeth and Amorphis, fleshing out the sound to a place it has never been before, experimenting with atmospheric and even industrial ideas while still keeping its technical death metal foundation intact.
Clean vocals are something that Michael Keene, The Faceless’s principle songwriter, toyed a bit on the previous two releases to contrast with the death growls, but here the clean vocals present for a very significant portion of the album. Many of these clean vocals are accompanied by soft and sonically-rich passages, such as the song “Autotheist Movement III: Deconsecrate,” that sounds inspired straight from the manual of Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt.
Another highlight of this record would be the pure tech-death track, “The Eidolon Reality.” This song would fit very easily into the previous album, “Planetary Duality.” Leading off with a frantic and lovely dissonant riff, the song descends into many twists and turns until it ends in another one of Keene’s intricate and heart-tugging solos that he is known so well for constructing, not to mention a catchy little chorus in the middle of the track.
The old days of The Faceless are now gone, but it should not be all that sad. The band has covered a significant amount of ground in just three albums and has grown into a highly respectable force in modern metal. In the past, The Faceless could be mentioned in the same breath as tech-death bands such as Decrepit Birth or Psycroptic. But, if it continues to mature and continue in this direction, it would not be a stretch to mention the band as important innovators of progressive metal, like Opeth, Amorphis or even Cynic, 10 or 20 years down the line.
- Derrek Tipton
Originally posted here: http://www.bsudailynews.com/
The long awaited third output from the widely praised band, The Faceless, has finally come out after 2 years of delays. We were originally supposed to get an album by the name of "Purging Mankind" around 2010, but things happened with The Faceless and ultimately, we had to wait longer than we hoped. Between the time The Faceless released their last album, the band has switched out 60 percent of the members. We have new vocalist, Geoffrey Ficco, who basically does the same thing as the last guy, and almost makes it hard to believe it is someone different. We also have new guitarist Wes Hauch, who, while talented, did not put a whole lot of his input into the album, due to it being mostly written and done by the time he came in the band. Finally, we have new bassist Evan Brewer, and while Brandon Giffin is a talented bassist, Evan Brewer quite frankly is better, and if you've ever listened to his solo album, you'll understand why. Overall, this Faceless, the ones who put out "Autotheism", are more-than-half a different group of people as the ones who put out "Akeldama" and the highly praised "Planetary Duality", and therefore, changes in sound are to be expected.
Now, as everyone already knows, this album is a step in a different direction than what we've heard on Planetary Duality. This album draws in more influences of progressive metal, a hint of avant-garde, and completely eliminates all influences of "deathcore", which, as some people have debated, were present on Akeldama and Planetary Duality. This album's direction has become a love-or-hate type of thing. I personally find it to be a good change, and an evolution in The Faceless's sound, because, to be quite honest, I do not think Planetary Duality is as good as many others find it to be. A fine album it was, indeed, but I just feel that the realm of progressive / technical death metal really has much more to offer.
Now, as we look at the album's tracklisting, we see that the first three tracks make up an 18 minute song known as Autotheist Movement. This would be the album's "1st part" and "main song", which deals with the concept of one who believes himself to be God and to get rid of the other religions that exist. Once we begin listening to the album, we hear a cool tranquil piano intro which sets a bleak mood for the song, and then shortly we hear some epic-sounding orchestral arrangement accompanied by industrial sounds, something which sounds like it would be used in a trailer for an action film. I like the intro a lot but I also feel at the same time it is sort of cheesy. Soon after, we hear the band come in, and from the moment you hear the opening guitar melody, you already know this is going to be something different from what we've already heard this band do in the past. The melody feels very progressive and reminiscent of Tool or The Ocean. We find that the clean vocals from Michael Keene are being used more abundantly here. Keene's voice seems to have improved from the last albums, and in some places sounds Devin Townsend-influenced. He and Geoffrey switch off between lead vocalist and background vocalist throughout the whole first part of the Autotheist Movement. This song by itself probably features more of Michael Keene's vocals than Planetary Duality did, which is either welcomed or disliked, depending on who you are. Next, we get into the second part of Autotheist Movement, which starts off with a much more furious tech-death style reminiscent of the earlier Faceless sound. This song features a little more dominance in growled vocals As the song progresses we find that there are a lot of keyboard lines placed within the song to give the music an extra layer of depth which I feel Planetary Duality was lacking. Near the middle we hear Keene's vocals come back, and then we hear him being accompanied by some guest female vocals by Tara Keene (who I am going to assume is his sister), and then there's a short part where the song calms down for a few measures with some smooth-jazz styled guitar work, somewhat reminiscent of Opeth. The song then goes back full force with a cool ascending-descending arpeggio solo. After this, the song continues on like it had before, repeating the dual-vocal harmony between Michael and Tara, and then leading into the final part of the Authotheist Movement. The final part starts off very tranquil and dark sounding with some more jazzy influenced soloing being heard in the background, and then Keene starts off with his vocals singing about previous faith being buried. Then we hear this demented-carnival tune being played while Keene sings the lines, "God is dead, rest your mind of guilt, my child. God is dead. Let your sacraments wilt, my child". After this, the song changes back to furious death metal riffs, and for the rest of the song, the growled vocals are more prominent. The clean vocals appear once more about 3 minutes in, with that demented melody returning while he sings "God is dead.... GOD IS DEAD!" This would be the last part in which the clean vocals show up. Near the end, we hear a cool saxophone solo provided by guest musician Sergio Flores. Then the song returns to the demented-sounding melody and fades out the song. Overall, the entire style of the Autotheist Movement showcases The Faceless's newer sound better than any of the other tracks on the album, and as a whole, is the best track on the album.
I consider the next 23 minutes of the album to be the "2nd part" of Autotheism, which makes up of other songs unconnected to the "Autotheist Movement" part of the album. "Accelerated Evolution" is the best song of the 2nd part, having some of the album's best riffs and displaying some Cynic-influences. "The Eidolon Reality" I would actually consider to be the "odd ball" considering how different it sounds in contrast to the rest of the album. This would make sense though, as this song has actually been around since 2010, and many Faceless fans have already listened to it before. Some people may prefer the pre-production versions, but I like this one more. Still again, the feeling from this song contrasts greatly from the rest of the album. "Ten Billion Years", while still a good song, I personally find to be the album's weakest song (not including "Hail Science"). "Hail Science" is really just a segue that leads into the next track. "Hymn of Sanity" is a very short but sweet track, which would be reminiscent of "Prison Born" from the last album. The track comes, kicks you in the teeth and leaves. Finally, we have "In Solitude" which begins with a Opeth-like acoustic introduction accompanied by Keene's vocals. The whole song is another one of the album's best tracks, and serves as a great way to finish the record.
Overall, Autotheism is a damn satisfying LP with few flaws, and even though the album clocks in longer than the previous albums, Autotheism still leaves me wanting more, while the other ones were satisfying enough as they were. The band has drawn in many influences from other bands and styles, and it definitely shows here. Sure, there may be those who aren't as much into progressive metal and wanted something more like Planetary Duality, but I however applaud this band's evolution and I have high hopes that they will continue to show this progression in the future.
California’s The Faceless hit the ground running with their 2006 debut, Akeldama, a frenetic mish-mash of technical death metal and ingrained metalcore influences. Despite the dearth of creativity that genre tag generally indicates, though, it was a strong effort, containing a lot of impressive, memorable passages, including clean singing and light progressive influences. Overall, it had a very distinct personality, and perhaps most telling of all, I still listen to it. Their sophomore, Planetary Duality, upped the ante even higher, expanding on the scintillating juxtaposition of technical ferocity and psychedelic progressive instances, strengthening both and bringing a new plateau of songwriting to the table. After 4 years and some line-up changes, they’re back with their most diverse, exciting offering by far, Autotheism.
Make no mistake, The Faceless are now planted firmly in the realm of progressive metal, a bold step that often ends in disaster for many bands, as it takes serious compositional chops to enter this realm with any impact. Not only does Autotheism make an impact, it veritably blows a crater into the side of the metal world. Indeed, the smorgasbord of competing influences could have easily spiraled off into incredulity and disaster, but it spins its genre-blending vortex with incredible grace. Not only is each individual passage unique and inspired, the whole becomes something even more than the sum of its parts.
One foot is still planted firmly in the realm of roiling, pounding tech death, and passages of resounding speed and brutality are prevalent throughout, spaced in roughly even increments with the more outlandish sections. This is a pretty thorough, ballsy evolution, and one that will not appeal to everybody, granted. There are influences that can be traced to other oft-maligned, yet inarguably unique artists such as Ihsahn, Opeth, Devin Townsend, and Between the Buried and Me. However, though redolent of these bands, it in no way succumbs to plagiarism or mockery, wrapping subtle tributes into its own distinct web. Everything is inspired by something else, but that does nothing to diminish its value. I can sympathize with the jarring sensation of a band you enjoy crossing streams with waters you tend to stay away from, but to condemn them simply for the action alone is just petty, and if that alienates you, then good fucking riddance. At length, the soundscapes within truly are akin to the above metaphor, a blending of seemingly disparate rivers, creating something diverse and yet intrinsically blended. The lines between death and prog in this album are as not clearly defined as you might think, and this is truly what makes Autotheism so fucking astounding. Nobody has ever achieved a sound quite like this before.
The inaugural trio of tracks comprising the Autotheist Movement display without restraint the slant the record will take, blurring the lines of creativity and brutality with a back and forth between strong, well-ranged cleans and obligatory growls, as the riffing itself floats through dense, relaxing cosmic clouds of melody and epileptic, blasting sprints of fretwork. The innate elemental meshing would mean nothing if the music within was not strong in and of itself, and I truly cannot note a moment within that does not have me completely involved. To be punished so completely one minute, and philosophically roaming some warm, hallucinogenic cosmos the next, without ever feeling the slightest vertigo in transition, is an unbelievable sensation. The scattered, artful use of keyboards also adds a nice sense of theater. Some sections feel like nothing less than excursions into a hypnotic alien carnival, so interesting and off-kilter is the atmosphere. No matter the pace, there’s a huge amount of stuff going on, never boring, but never feeling like too much. It’s crafted as to be enjoyable casually, but with many delicious layers to be extracted over repeated listens. After 20 or so spins, it’s only grown on me. I also really enjoy the lyrics, which I imagine emanating from a sort of shrouded, ambiguous demigod consciousness, championing individuality while parsing out bags of good mushrooms.
Autotheism is true evolution in sound that should be applauded. Of course, any band daring to improve and differentiate their art is going to run into detractors, of whom I have a few subtle thoughts to impart. To those of you who keep parroting 'this isn't the same The Faceless as before!', or lines to that effect… well, I feel I must point out, though I really shouldn’t need to, that they only had two albums before this, the second of which built upon the first with the inclusion of many new elements. Of course it’s not the same, why would it be? I understand the concept of change frightens and angers the more deeply inbred among you, but the band does not need to cease evolution almost immediately in its life cycle to please your lame incestuous tendencies.
Another puzzling, downright laughable accusation I’ve read, and one that every artist making music the least bit avant-garde runs into, is one pertaining to ‘pretention.’ I apologize in advance for getting off-topic in a review, a practice I’m not fond of, but I feel an overwhelming need to address this. While in a few cases a call of pretention rings true, this is 99% of the time an attempt by individuals of base intellect to guard against their own overwhelming (often subconscious) sense of mental inadequacy by judging anything beyond their innate comprehension as flawed, without overtly saying so. It is the most resoundingly hollow criticism possible, about as legitimate as saying something ‘sucks’ because it’s ‘gay’. It only serves to paint the individual who uses it as someone worthy of mockery, with so little weight behind the argument you might as well let fly your true douche-bro nature and use the term ‘art-fag’. Is it at all possible the band just wanted to write music that is outside the proverbial box because they thought it would sound awesome? Because they were legitimately inspired to do so based on a creative drive? What exactly is the pretense you refer to? Do you even understand the meaning of the words you use? If you don’t like it, that’s fine, I hold nothing against you, we all have differing opinions, and I accept that progressive metal is not to everyone’s tastes. But if the act of evolving beyond simple brutality makes The Faceless pretentious, if choosing to expand beyond borders you deem acceptable makes for pretension, then you might as well go back to the stone age, because you’re calling out the entire concept of innovation. Get over yourself.
Here in Autotheism, The Faceless have transcended the tag of technical death metal, and are now something more, something fresh and exhilarating. It's incredibly exciting, a sound that very few bands have attempted, and The Faceless have shown that this could be the start of an unforeseen dynasty. Autotheism is the dawn of a new era for the band, a collection of brilliant, forward-thinking songs that portrays a young, highly inspired group sending out feelers into a vast musical universe. That's right, it's no longer simply death metal, and if that's all you want, it may not be up your alley. However, it straddles its chosen realms with stunning ease, and marks the most pleasant surprise of 2012 thus far. I won’t go as far as calling it a masterpiece, but it’s pretty damn close. I’d love to hear them run even further, perhaps create a lengthy, even more experimental release. If they can expand upon this sound, they could be one of the most important, boundary-smashing bands of this generation.
-Left Hand of Dog
The Faceless have a tough job. They really do. They are the kind of band that struggles between the grips of tradition, making a place for themselves in history, and the easily mind-skewing position of a very, very trendy band. I don’t envy their position at all. They had a lot of pressure on their third release to please their younger fans and to try and earn their right alongside the bands they love and take inspiration from, bands whose names have left important marks on metal’s history. Autotheism saw the band coming off two popular-in-the-underground releases, and were in a perfect position to blow everyone away. Third albums are extremely important in my opinion, and their stance going into it was very normal. They had a first album that gained them enough popularity to “make it” as a band. They had a second album that took on greater ambitions and was met with success while putting a lot of pressure on them to continue to impress. That’s where their third album comes in. They had to really prove themselves on this album. This is the first album that they had something to lose on.
The result is a bit of a split. One on hand, it is the natural progression of the band, taking more elements from progressive music and moving further away from their previous sound. In this case, the album works well. It balances the two worlds of death metal and thoughtful metal somewhat well. Jarring at times, but progressive music was never supposed to be predictable. It’s tough to please people when switching from clean singing to death metal and I think the band does a good work in that area. Two very different sounds are going to sound odd next to each other sometimes.
On the other hand, the songwriting on the album is all very familiar and will be to fans of progressive music. The important factor on this release is not the individual riffs and parts, but they way they are put together. Yes, there are parts that sound similar to other bands. Yes, there are parts that you could say “oh my God they totally copied _____ just then”, and yes, there are parts that sound like their previous work, but honestly, what good band doesn’t borrow from others? And what good band abandons their style on their third album (I’m sure there are answers to these questions, but just go with me)? The vast majority of interesting and innovative music takes something from someone else. It’s the way it works. I don’t think The Faceless should be held to the standard that they can’t get away with a few copped riffs here and there. They have a sound that is unique. It’s been in their music since the beginning, and it is still there, just accentuated by different influences now. I look forward to when they are able to funnel down and blend those influences together and sprinkle it into a sound and album that is more “genuinely” theirs.
The main and glaring unimprovement with this album has to do with their position of being in a trendy band is the pretension. The Faceless are a popular metal band who are good songwriters, something which is rare. They know this. They are in the middle of the metal/deathcore tough guys, the nerdy prog fans, the tech death enthusiasts, and the odd place in between all of that. They are already seeing their second release being copied by younger bands which is a major ego stroke for a band that is already young themselves. That is bound to come back in some form or another on future releases. It comes back on Autotheism as oozing pretension, from the subject matter to the sometimes uncomfortable singing and often bad lyrics. I guess they were trying to be in your face and blunt with all of the “God is dead” and “You’re an idiot unless you agree with me”, but to me it seems more fit for a tumblr post. It’s supposed to be thought- provoking, but how can something be thought-provoking if it’s telling you what is right and there is no room for something else? It’s a bit immature. I get that they wanted to do something ambitious, and I like that...that’s good. The problem is when they tried it maybe an album too early. I feel like the subject matter and attitude of the album would be better suited for a fourth album the way the band was going. Their feel on the first two was pretty robotic and typical death metal and the amount of emotion and the way it’s handled on this one is a little out of place.
At the end of listening to the record, the musical performance of the band is most important. How does it sound? Aside from the copied parts and the attitude and the trend, how does it sound? Autotheism shows a band that can still write good music. The guitar solos are the best they’ve ever been, the music is engaging in both fast and slow sections, and the production is robotic with a hint of warmth and humanity, which is perfect for the music. This album may not become a classic, and the Faceless may not be a long lasting, remembered forever band, but it’s a solid work of music and pushes forward from their old sound into something new.
In all honesty, I'm not too familiar with The Faceless' first two albums aside from a few tracks here and there, but if I were to go off those tracks alone, this album is a big step up, going from wank-a-riffic tech death/metalcore to more cohesive progressive death metal with metalcore trimmings.
Ok, so where to start? I think in future reviews plenty of people are going to make some Opeth comparisons, which isn't too far off, but the Opeth-like tendencies here are scattered between what would be more aptly described as a hybrid between Cynic and The Black Dahlia Murder. Fast, melodic death riffs cut up with equal parts hypnotic, jazzy sections that are very reminiscent of "Focus" and "Traced in Air". Though were this differs from the previous albums and Cynic in the clean department is the lack of vocoder and auto-tune, and in some parts the clean singing comes off as vaguely similar to Mikael Stanne and in other parts comes off sounding like Mikael Akerfeldt, but for the most part sounds like the guy from Periphery (especially when the high notes kick in). And with the line up change, there is a significant improvement in the harsh vocals, going from generic deathcore to generic modern death metal.
Now a track by track analysis would put each track on equal footing, bar "Ten Billion Years". "Ten Billion Years" gets my vote for weakest track and really the only filler. It would be much better had the drums been higher in the mix and followed a pattern that flowed with as opposed to against the riffs. Movements 1, 2, and 3 all flow seamlessly together into a seventeen to eighteen minute long song that meanders around like a typical Opeth song, though unlike Opeth manages to present some ideas that stick in your head. "The Eidolon Reality" and "In Solitude" get my vote for best songs, followed close behind by "Hymn of Sanity" and "Accelerated Evolution". While "In Solitude" does leave some loose ends to the album, it plays out as a more aggressive version of the majority of "Traced in Air". "The Eidolon Reality" is essentially a polished re-working of the more upbeat tracks from "Focus".
If The Faceless keep this up, I can imagine them easily taking the crown for bands signed to Sumerian Records (though that shouldn't be TOO hard, should it?) and becoming one of the best in the current tech death scene. Those coming to this album looking for technical deathcore, you might be very disappointed. For those looking for progressive death metal in the vein of Opeth and Cynic, you've come to the right place. I give this a solid B, worth about ten bucks.
I am a huge fan of The Faceless. I think their first album was great (despite the off-putting deathcore moments here and there) and their second was perfect. Michael Keene writes unique and technical, yet catchy and inspired guitar riffs. Although the lineup has changed significantly over the years, Michael Keene has remained and that's all that matters. They can hire a new vocalist to grunt along and a new drummer to blast along every single album they release, but it won't matter because Keene is the band.
First, I'm going to start by touching on the most noticeable aspect of this album: Keene's clean vocals. Keene has contributed vocals to songs in the past, but usually they were short-lived and eclipsed by the harsh vocals. This album is different, because he adds his voice to almost every track and it is very prominent when he does. His singing is a lot more clear and mid-ranged, and I am torn about it. Sometimes I feel it fits well; however, sometimes it seems shoehorned into the song. "The Eidolon Reality" is a good song overall, but the clean vocals during the chorus seem very disjointed and misplaced because of the hyperfast tempo of the song itself.
One of the good things about this album is that all of the songs are different. "Autotheist Movement I: Create " is a song that starts with a soft piano, then showcases Keene's vocals, before the harsh vocals and tremolo picking begin. "Autotheist Movement II: Emancipate " is a very fast and erratic song, but it sounds like a less inspired version of "Prison Born," from their previous album. "Autotheist Movement III: Deconsecrate" is one of the stronger moments on the album; it sounds like classic The Faceless with a groovy saxophone solo in the middle. One of my favorites from the album is "Ten Billion Years." The vocals are very powerful on that track and you can hear the lyrics loud and clear behind the steady brutal riffs. This is a concept album, basically about continuing to advance and become infinitely powerful as a species; the title is very self-explanatory. The lyrics are very well-done and an interesting philosophy adds an extra layer of goodness to this album.
It seems like The Faceless released their first album which was less than phenomenal, but I wouldn't call it a misstep. They have evolved even further as a band, and I think they will come back stronger their next album. This is a great album nonetheless.
I believe little introduction is necessary but that hasn’t stopped me before, so here goes. The Faceless are the US band that along with Between the Buried and Me made actual metalheads believe that decent, even good deathcore exists. I could count myself into that group, as The Faceless has taken a liking to making me swallow my own words by producing enjoyable releases when everything seems to point to scandalous train wrecks. Akeldama showed potential for a solid death metal band and I fully expected the whole thing to end right there, when they decided to ditch all interesting parts of their sound and turn them into the prosaic chugging that makes deathcore the proverbial turd to the face of metal fans. But, shit, was I wrong. The guys went out and produced a damn cool record in sophomore Planetary Duality, in which death metal took the helm and left the –core to assume a tasteful supporting role, all rounded up with a very appropriate and properly depicted sci-fi theme, complete with cool effects, spacey guitars and stylish effects. So after a rather long wait, the band returns, but if you didn’t give a damn before, why should you now? Turns out The Faceless has completed yet another metamorphosis that borders on drastic and is sure to make a stir among those who are familiar with their previous efforts.
From the opening notes on third album Autotheism, it is clear that the band has undergone a significant stylistic transformation. Keys take more importance in their sound and industrial elements surface occasionally. Melody it’s an even greater priority than ever before and the cleaner guitar tone seems to be oriented towards this end. Songs have gotten surprisingly unpredictable; the scope (influence wise) widens as many elements and different ideas are given space, in a more progressive structure and, dare I say, hinting at avant-garde flirtations for future releases. In an unanticipated turn, Deathcore has pretty much gone out the window and its presence is virtually non-existent, and limited to a handful of breakdowns that are used logically (and reasonably well concealed) as opposed to breakdowns added to meet some quota. Musicianship is top notch; all members are in full control of where the songs spiral into during the entire playtime. That being said, technicality has loosened its grip around songwriting and allowed the music to breathe more, making for a more engaging listen. Certainly less instrument acrobatics to be found but songs flow better as a result. Guitarists Michael Keene and new addition Wes Hauch deliver all sort of awesome riffs and wild solos with flair. New vocalist Geoffrey Ficco nails its parts to great effect and eliminates my concerns for the departure of previous vocalist Derek Rydquist prior to listening to the album. Bassist Evan Brewer is (as usual) barely hearable but the bass lines I’ve heard are all solid pieces, perhaps too close to what the guitars are playing but, again, that’s far from unusual in metal. Samples are also great for setting an unusual atmosphere that works wonders around the album concept and musical leanings. The paradigm shift could be loosely likened to the shift between the last couple of Death albums, where the melodies and progressive components have risen to prominence and the result remains death metal but arguably so.
And yet the album is not without flaws. Autotheism’s great transgressions are two: first comes the aversion to the death metal these guys are so capable of producing. Songs seem to head to kickass heavy and fast portions but the band decides to head somewhere else instead, creating aural boners that they then proceed to leave unattended. For example, guitarist and song writer Michael Keene has gotten more confident on his clean vocals and delivers them significantly more often than in past endeavors. In fact, clean vocals comprise around a 50% (give or take 10%) of the vocals in the record. Problem is the album begged for far more death grunts. Some clean vocal sections feel forced and are thus unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong, Keene is a fantastic vocalist and when his vocals work, they goddamn work but, as far as I’m concerned, in order for the harsh-clean vocal contrast to function one of the two must be used considerably more often than the other, otherwise one of them will hold the other down. Furthermore, drummer Lyle Cooper seems hesitant to push his speed as he did before in Planetary Duality. Some sections of the album call for more haste and he inexplicably slows down, effectively blue-balling the living hell out of the listener, when he constantly shows that he can drum his face off (heh). I’ll admit that this particular criticism caters to a pet peeve of mine, and like all pet peeves, it’s highly subjective in the highly subjective activity of writing reviews. However, I believe that some sections can definitely work far better with a nice dosage of blast beats and someone roaring his lungs off, you be the judge. Secondly, at times the album can feel disjointed to a fault because the different genres are not integrated coherently, and I’m the guy that believes Unexpect makes perfect sense. Fortunately, this is rare and not really a cause for much concern.
Overall, Autotheism is an unusual and entertaining listen that, I’ll admit leaves me waiting with great anticipation at the future of this talented band. Aside from a few gripes with some songwriting decisions, this is a cool album that will change your view of The Faceless, whether you were a fan or not. As the technicality and songwriting intelligence continue to coalesce, we will (hopefully) hear even stronger efforts by The Faceless. Sure to have worshippers and detractors of comparable passion.
Autotheism is the embodiment of oneself as god. American producer, guitarist, and now a vocalist, Michael Keene has hit the right note by naming the album so, as only a man of sheer brilliance can come up with such drastic, yet magnificent, experimentation when it comes to making music. Yes, "Autotheism", the most awaited technical death metal album of the year, by The Faceless will released today. This album overflows with erratic changes from the endearing jazz fills to Keene's majestic clean vocals, yet, pertaining to their technical death metal sound. This juxtapostion of clean vocals and death metal with ambient and theatric influences is done immaculately by the band. This, my death metal fanatics, will take you to the realm that comprises of maturity and growth of a band as it is very rare that a band successfully executes their experimentation especially when it comes to such a magnitude.
The album begins with the first track, namely, "Autotheist Movement I: Create", starting with a symphonic intro, transcending into a rock song with Keene's cleans. The song remains slow paced throughout and the chorus is well decorated with Keene's grandeur vocals. The second song is a continuation of the first one, called, "Autotheist Movement II: Emancipate". This song begins with a technical progressive death metal intro with fast and hypnotic riffs that will blow your mind. Eventually creeping into Keene and Wes' benchmark technical guitaring, the song takes a sudden dip into a dark, ambient background with Keene's solo slowly rising up and bridging its way back to the brutal sound as the solo gets faster. This song sets the pace for the whole diverse album. The next song is the last of the AM trio called,"Autotheist Movement III: Deconsecrate". It starts with a slow ambient feel and cleans, and walks its way into the death metal sound with some crazy guitaring by the duo. The unique twist in the song is that you will hear saxophones in the background and sudden input of some jazz fills amidst the heaviness. The song ends with Keene's trademark shred solo. This album sets the bar right up high for the bands that are known for experimenting with their sounds.
The band goes on to surprise you with some theatric intros in songs like, "Ten Billion Years" and "Accelerated Evolution" with a hint of ambient in the background here and there. The black spot in this album was that there was no prominent exposure of the bass, unlike in their previous albums where it had some very commendable bass lines. Another question to put forward, would be, - was there a bit too much of clean vocals for a death metal album? Maybe. In songs like, "Accelerated Evolution", just when you get the overpowering feeling of death metal in you, the vocals suddenly shifts to cleans and it sounds very abrupt, thereby disrupting the complete song structure.
This album covers the whole of their fanbase, be it the ones who thought that "Akeldama" and "Planetary Duality" was too technical and repetitive or the majority that love their technical death metal feel and want them to restrict their music just to that. The record is also for those metalheads who are always on a lookout for something different and unique to amaze them. The top three songs from this album would be, "Eidolon Reality", which pretty much reminds you of the old The Faceless, sticking to their brutality, "Autotheist Movement I - Create", that in my opinion has the band doing best use of Keene's clean vocals in and the last song, "In Solitude" which has a slow acoustic start eventually igniting some skull crushing death metal by the band.
If you're looking for another "Akeldama" or "Planetary Duality", I'd suggest you to sit there and wait for their next record but if you're eager to figure out what this change in the line-up has brought you, then I'm telling you to get off that chair for once and grab the album right away!
Originally written by me on :