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For Planetary Duality, The Faceless have strayed from some of the production/instrumentation traits of their debut effort, Akeldama; most noticeably in the keyboard department. Where in Akeldama they made quite extensive use of familiar string and synth sounds, here they have simplified the pallet of sounds somewhat. This album does contain some unusual effects throughout, but never strays far from the vast, crushing guitars and machine-like percussion. Personally, I'm quite thankful of this - I've never been a big fan of synths in metal (particularly orchestral elements which tend to sound the most artificial, oddly enough). I find their presence in most productions to be overbearing and contrived - thankfully this has been scaled back here. In general, the album has a very clean production with all instruments nicely separated and audible in the mix. The only complaint I have in this department are some of the higher growls, for instance on "Planetary Duality II" there's a doubling effect but the higher range part sounds muffled and almost whispered. It may be the desired effect but I find without that sense of aggression present in the lower growls it comes across a little too "theatrical", shall we say.
Aside from the decent production, however, I haven't found the album as compelling on repeat listens as it was on the first "spin". Albums like this are hard to digest in one listen - they are multi-layered, complex in both structure and harmony as well as being so fast in places you could sneeze and miss three riffs. They take time to unfold, in other words. For me, the album has an immediate momentum with "Prison Born"; a frantic and pummelling opener which (sort of) sets the vibe for the rest of the album, aside from the title tracks, but I'll get to those. I say "sort of" as the album does take the occasional breath in the form of more ambient, atmospheric passages. These usually comprise of clean guitars where keyboards come more into focus, or in lead guitar breaks with a similar ambient treatment taking centre stage over less prominent rhythm work, adding a bit more breadth to the sound. However, while there is a lot of variation and some dynamic shifts (kudos lads - too many tech metal bands stick the metronome on 200bpm an play whack-a-mole on the guitar strings for three minutes) the song-writing isn't consistent within songs.
There are moments of greatness in pretty much every song (the muted passages in Coldly Calculated Design, the opening the Planetary Duality 1) but no one song manages to keep this going throughout. I can't isolate one "filler" song, but each song has filler within it, which is immensely frustrating given the quality of some of the ideas in here. Too often a brilliant idea is not given time to mature - it's a few bars and then on to the next riff which can, at times, fall short and leave you feeling cheated. Chaotic switches between riffs and time signatures can be effective but here it's too much and I often couldn't latch on to anything long enough to "get" the bigger picture. Of course, this could just be too challenging for my ears, but if I can get through a Messiaen symphony I should be able to digest this, right? Who knows...
I found the duo of Planetary Duality I/II and Xenochrist to be the most satisfying offerings on the album; the sample on "Planetary Duality I" that starts things off is a little cliche but the riffs that follow are a perfect match for the subject and have enough space within and around them to really create an atmosphere. That being said, they don't occupy much of the album
Lyrically, it's pretty standard. The ideas and themes aren't difficult to decipher and it's all very dark and reflective on the human condition as you might expect. I find most metal lyrics fall into two camps - taking themselves too seriously or being deliberately as dumb as possible. In this instance the subject matter and delivery is in the former camp but I find the writing a little clumsy; the kind of "faux poetry" style that's adopted to give them a bit more emotive weight I suppose. It's a personal thing though, and in this style it's hard to make out most of the lyrics unless you're reading them while listening so take that with a pinch of salt. One of the reasons I like the vocal style in the death genre(s) is that they add more in terms of tonality and feel than anything else but my gripes with the higher range vocals diminish that effect here.
This isn't a bad album by any means; it's technically sound with good production, has some great riffs and manages to inject a lot more dynamics than some other albums of its ilk. However, it's the frantic approach to the song structures that diminishes its impact. If some of the riffs had been given more time and space to evolve this might not be the case, but there are too many passages that come out of nowhere and do nothing more than display technical ability. Technical ability aside, it's the song that counts in the end.
This is it? This is the album everyone's been masturbating over these past few years? I get the feeling I'm somehow living in a slightly different reality from everyone else, identical except for the fact that in everyone else's universe, Planetary Duality is actually good. I'll be upfront - this is not progressive, at least not in the good way. It's shitty modern deathcore that tries to cover up its flaws through elements borrowed from bands like Cynic and Atheist. And though it goes without saying, it's horrible - almost completely so. It takes genuine effort to find albums this bad - like, weeks of searching through rehearsal demos from everyone's local Evanescence clones - to find anything that can even begin to tap into the level of shit that this album is.
Although The Faceless created a decent, humble album in the form of Akeldama, they decided to make their next effort a wad of pseudo-intelligent fruity closeted deathcore for whatever reason. Maybe they just wanted to see if they could get away with creating such an obviously deathcore album by adding a bunch of random "progressive" elements, and if so, congratulations you guys did it, now cut it the fuck out you're making everyone want to play your crappy style of poorly structured "prog-death".
(Note: I've heard quite a few people try to say that this is not a deathcore album, that instead it is progressive death metal with little to no deathcore influences. These people are silly - for their convenience, all deathcore elements of Planetary Duality described in this review will be emphasized in bold.)
Part of what makes Planetary Duality so actively offensive is the feeling the listener gets while listening to it that The Faceless are trying to cover up all of their deathcore influences with dozens of layers of clichéd elements caricatured over the years by other "progressive" deathcore bands. The riffs are usually wrapped on both ends with tons of atmospheric "spacey" riffs that go against the general gist of The Faceless's sound, and they generally seem to be The Faceless's go-to when they were stumped in terms of songwriting. Aside from that, there are the... vocoder vocals... Jesus Christ, you thought Cynic were bad with the vocoder stuff, just you fucking wait. Unlike Cynic, the vocals used with this technique are moreso weird chants than any sort of melodic singing, and sound so out of place that The Faceless might have as well yodeled in Spanish and there's a good chance it would have sounded better. Like the space riffs, the vocoder vocals don't fit, and you get the feeling The Faceless just listened to Focus and said "Hey, apparently progressive bands use these! Let's be progressive!" with no mind payed towards how it would actually fucking sound in regards to the riffs.
So, yeah, the riffs. They're very melodic tremolo technical death metal numbers that seem to float effortlessly over the music, obviously rooted in deathcore. They lack any sort of real "feeling" to them, even by progressive deathcore standards; they are progressive deathcore in the same way that Liturgy are black metal (they're technically playing it, but the vibe is totally off) and they usually fail to create any sort of atmosphere, much less the spacey mystical thing the band have going. Taking the blasting and complex drum fills into account, it seems The Faceless are attempting to make a more emotive and atmospheric deathcore equivalent of Fleshgod Apocalypse...and failing quite hard at it. Aside from the horrid string-riffs-upon-more-riffs-as-we-think-of-them songwriting, the riffs do very little individually as well. There are a few interesting moments, such as the breakdown at the end of "Xenochrist", the riff lasting for about a minute at the end of "The Ancient Covenant", and the slam at the end of "Planetary Duality II (A Prophecies Fruition)", but in general the music contained on Planetary Duality is worthless self-indulgent wankfuckery, and doesn't even have the musical quality to justify its attitude.
The music could be partially redeemed were the vocals unique enough, but The Faceless fucked up there as well, instead choosing a vocalist with one of the most unoriginal vocal styles imaginable. It's that sort of low, barky death growl anyone will immediately know if he's listened to any technical death metal album made after 2000. Everyone uses it (though I'm not entirely sure why), and after hearing six hundred million bands use the style it goes from mediocre to actively fucking annoying. The growls on this album are sort of catchy at times, but generally they feel like they're not the style that would allow Planetary Duality to reach its maximum artistic potential (not to imply that a good vocalist alone would redeem this piece of shit). In what appears to be an attempt to be "moar pergresive", the band also included clean singing on a couple of tracks. While they're not overused, Jesus Christ they are some of the worst singing vocals I've ever heard. The vocalist seems to prefer sleazily slurring his voice (a great example is around 1:37 in "Sons of Belial": "THIEEE DEH-VINE, taayyyyyse of *dance pop voice* EH-NUH-SENCE"...for fuck's sake, this is not singer-songwriter music) to precisely hitting the notes and making them sound nice. There are also deathcore screams every now and then sitting in the background, but they don't ever come out very loud in the production (makes sense: the band's had a habit throughout the rest of this album of basically closeting all their deathcore elements; heaven forbid people actually think The Faceless are a deathcore band, oh no!). Again, these screams are the generic, high, raspy kind that you could hear in any deathcore band ever; to spend more than two sentences on them in this review would imply that there's something worthwhile about them to observe, which there's not.
Overall, this is fruity, closeted deathcore that despite its constant breakdowns, screams, and the riffs generally being ripped from any technical deathcore band ever, insists that it's some sort of death metal album by covering up its deathcore tendencies with influences obviously thrown in at the last second. The songwriting is poor, the vocals are banal, the breakdowns are unoriginal, and the production and guitar tone is typical, overproduced modern deathcore trite. On a level of 1 to 100, you would have to think of an imaginary number near infinity to comprehend just how much I hate this; to judge its actual musical quality on such a scale, however, a 17 will do.
One of my favourite Technical Death Metal albums out there, from start to finish this album and band has everything. Heavy guitar lines that aren't too heavy, some sweet-ass bass grooves, incredible vocals, and don't even get me started on the drum work.
When I first discovered The Faceless, I discovered their Akeldama album, and I immediately fell in love with the lyrics more than anything else. They're the sort of lyrics where you read them, and either find yourself having a completely different outlook on life from reading them, or you think "Dude, that guy must've got an A+ in English. Or he just got sent to the school councellor a lot".
But let's talk about Planetary Duality. Overall, it really is a great album from start to finish, from the Brain Drill-esque technicality, speed, brutality and intensity of Prison Born, to the soft guitar sections in Legion of the Serpent. I think the song "Planetary Duality" also goes up near the top of my favourite songs of all time, let alone from this album. The use of the frantic caller from Art Bell's radio show added so much tension into the song.
The thing that I really love is when you choose a song to listen to, look at the song name next to the band name, and you think "Man, this song's going to be AWESOME!" This happens normally for about half of the songs on an album. However, with Planetary Duality, none of the songs, at any point, look like they'll slip from the high standards that The Faceless set themselves. The lyrics as well seem to really define pure metal at its best.
I can't give the album top marks considering it was far too short for me, and could've used some more solos. But overall, an outstanding album. For those who love technical and melodic death metal that you can really bang your head to, I highly recommend this album.
Why the hell didn't I think of alien-themed death metal? That is such an awesome concept. Damn you, members of The Faceless.
Just kidding. You guys are alright. No, you're not alright, you're awesome. The Faceless may very well be the leaders of the American technical death metal scene at the moment. Sure there are more technical American death metal bands, but none are as innovative as The Faceless. That's not to say the members of The Faceless lack talent; as every review will state, that statement is far from the truth. Each member is VERY talented. And if you consider the vocals an instrument, the vocalist is damn talented too. Anyway, onto the music.
The album opens with the brief "Prison Born," which begins with some ambiance, followed by some sickening 64th note tremolo picking from guitarist Michael Keene. From then, technical, melodic madness ensues. Drastic tempo changes, dizzying guitar acrobatics, above-average vocals (Derek Rydquist has a great growl) and sporadic moments of vocoder usage. "The Ancient Covenant" opens with a cool bass sweep, which is sadly the only time for the bass to shine on the album, and contains a breakdown. Shut up, elitist metalheads, The Faceless is NOT a deathcore band; rather, they are a talented-as-fuck death metal band who happens to take slight hardcore influence. Breakdowns are anything but abundant on this release. "Coldly Calculated Design" shows the more melodic side of The Faceless, and the moment where Keene utilizes the vocoder at :51 into the song is chilling and exciting. "Xenochrist" is what happens when The Faceless decides to incorporate keys and black metal into their already caustic combination of styles. Check out :25 into the song: fucking black metal. And it's a great song for it. "Sons of Belial" is a slower song, showing that The Faceless don't need to play at top speed like 99% of the other technical death metal bands nowadays. It's also the song where Michael Keene uses clean vocals, and, while not particularly mind-blowing, they're effective.
That paragraph was getting too long, so I'll start a new one. "Legion of the Serpent" is pure brilliance. Following the blueprint of "Xenochrist," this song is highly black-metal-influenced melodic death metal, also incorporating ambient keys to create atmosphere. For a well-produced modern death metal band, The Faceless sure knows how to convey a bleak atmosphere. No, the music is drenched in it (Akercocke, I'm staring daggers at you), but it's an effective atmosphere. The decision to incorporate keys more often in their music was a good one. "Planetary Duality I (A Hideous Revelation)" is downright creepy. Not Axis of Perdition creepy, but a good exercise in utilizing samples to create even more atmosphere. "Planetary Duality II (A Prophecies Fruition)" is a good way to end the album, fading out of the speakers, leaving the listener wanting more.
Production, while top notch, is not sterile. It's clean, very clean, but not overbearingly so. The drums are triggered, yes, but still manage to sound slightly organic and live. Seeing as how Michael Keene is a shredder through and through, much of his work is done on the higher strings, and production showcases that with a razor sharp guitar tone that unfortunately lacks a bit of low end. But that's easy enough to get past. Bass, while only given one moment to shine in the beginning of "The Ancient Covenant," is easily audible at times, which is more than many other current death metal bands can boast. I neglected to mention how good of a drummer Lyle Cooper is: he's fucking good. Enough said, you'll understand what I mean when you listen to this album, which you most certainly should do if you like melodic, technical death metal.
P.S. As the title of this review states, alien-themed death metal is such a cool concept, and the cover art is badass.
It's bands like The Faceless that make me proud to be a metalhead. Planetary Duality is a progressive technical-death metal masterpiece that I haven't removed from my stereo since I got it. I really like how The Faceless is moving away from the generic deathcore sound of their peers. Thankfully, there are no boring single-note breakdowns designed to excite typical Suicide Silence fan. The Faceless have disregarded the stereotypical trends of deathcore to pursue their own musical interests, to the delight of metalheads such as myself.
This is a fairly short album, clocking in at a little over a half hour. However, The Faceless manage to pack a massive punch into such a short album. The album starts off with awesome headbanging goodness and ends with awesome headbanging goodness. The second track "The Ancient Covenant" starts of with a jaw dropping bass sweep then dives at blazing speed to the brutality that is this album. There are also some rockin' melodic undertones to this album.
The guitar work is nothing short of miraculous. The drums ride along at break-neck speeds. It's the vocals that really add to this album. The occasional use of clean vocals and a vocoder compliment the brutal sounds of Derek "Demon Carcass" Rydquist. I wish they would have used a little more keyboards in this album, but the little they do appear they sound awesome and come in at just the right moments.
This album by The Faceless makes me feels unworthy to be a musician on the same planet as them. This album has inspired me so much, not only as a metalhead but as a musician. This is album is a necessary addition to the collection any person that calls themselves a metalhead.
The Faceless belong in a very exclusive group of deathcore bands that actually transcend the typical mediocrity that plagues the genre, and have even moved in a direction more like technical death metal. Their core roots are not all gone, but have diminished for the most part. Gone are the ridiculously simplistic breakdowns that occasionally popped up on their previous effort, Akeldama, now replaced by slightly more complex rhythms in chug-chug fashion.
The album seems to have a space and science fiction theme (as hinted by the title), which is more interesting than the lyrical content of Akeldama. The atmosphere of the songs successfully reflect the main theme, with spacey solos, jazzy, bizarre sounding chords, and the presence of alien-esque samples and keys. I have always enjoyed the keyboards in the Faceless' work, so I was disappointed to hear their keyboardist had left. But there's still keys, just not in a prominent way as with Akeldama. As for the sample in Hideous Revelation, it was well done, but not very original. I'm pretty sure the exact quote appears on Tool's 10,000 Days album, but I digress.
The production is pretty good. The drums are very clicky, but it's not so over the top that it becomes unbearable. The guitar tone is decent, especially in comparison with other tech death bands (Necrophagist comes to mind....). The vocals are well done, varying in appropriate parts, and even throwing in clean singing in some instances. Personally, I enjoyed the singing thoroughly, and it would have been cool to hear it implemented more frequently throughout the album. The bass isn't completely drowned out by the other instruments, and even gets to shine on occasion, particularly for the incredible sweep intro to the Ancient Covenant.
While this album is worthy of praise, it also has its downfalls. For an album with nine tracks, it is inexcusably short. Prison Born could have been 3 minutes longer, Shape Shifters was a complete waste, and Hideous Revelation is the most blatant breakdown exercise I've ever heard. The songwriting is also very choppy in some places, with a lot of riffs lacking flow in their transitions. We get it, you're technical, but that's no excuse for a lack of song structure. The solos were excellent in some songs, such as Coldly Calculated Design, but others did not stand out, and even sounded very much like others on the album. Lastly, I hate "Sons of Belial." It's too slow, too chug-chug, too boring and out of place on the album.
Overall, this band has great potential, and could very well put out an album that would become a classic example of good technical death metal. This album is nowhere near close. This band needs to grow musically, particularly in their songwriting skills. Also, I have seen them live and watched many live videos, and their lead guitarist, Michael Keene, needs to practice, because he is sloppy as shit. Recording an album full of technical tricks doesn't mean anything if you can't recreate it live.
I recall regarding the band's debut Akeldama as a talented yet uninspiring debut album of brutal Californian tech death, and it seems with Planetary Duality they've topped that album with a devastating array of musicianship and an emphasis on catchier riffs which often evoke nostalgia of earlier 80s technical thrash.
Marry this with an intriguing science fiction vibe, killer cover art and you've got yet another contender for tech death metal album of the year. While I didn't enjoy it as much as the recent release from Severed Savior, it's nonetheless fascinating and just about perfect. "Prison Born" engages the listener with a battery of twisting, rapid guitar punctuation, progressive breaks, lightning leads and arpeggios, and a mix of brutal and robotic vocals. These are kept through other tracks as well, giving the record a very unified feel. "The Ancient Covenant" has an excellent off-tempo rhythm under some creepy cosmic leadwork. "Shape Shifters" is a brilliant and creepy instrumental. "Coldly Calculated Design" and "XenoChrist" return to the band's brutality. "Sons of Belial" starts slowly and features some clean vocals, which aren't quite up to snuff, though the rest of the song kicks ass. "Legions of the Serpents" is phenomenal. The album ends with the two parts of "Planetary Duality". "Hideous Revelation" is an instrumental with a frightening sample of a terrified man. "A Prophecy's Fruition" returns to that dynamic and thrilling style from the first few tracks.
It's difficult to find any fault at all with such a fantastic effort. The musicianship is insane, the mix is just right where you can hear all the pummeling. The vocals are 99.9% awesome except that one missed clean part in "Sons of Belial". And, taken as a whole, it's the album I'm going to want to sit through again and again. At this point I'll say it's the technical death metal runner up of the year (I'm still partial to Severed Savior but I will not deny the genius of this album). A major improvement for The Faceless and it should catapult them into one of the major 'faces' in the USDM scene. See what I did there? Haw haw.
While I’m a fan of Akeldama, the first release from The Faceless, I’m completely blown away by Planetary Duality to the point where I can find very little flaw in the release. The rhythm work is superb on the drum and bass end, with the drums hitting relentless speedy fills and shifting to groovy beats and the bass running on its own lines rather than constantly following the guitar and becoming inaudible. To further back up the already well off rhythm section comes the guitar work with its jazzy influences, mind bending leads, and in my opinion, rather enjoyable tone. Michael Keene’s fret work is truly amazing from a lead standpoint, as well as a riff standpoint. Often times I find myself with many of the riffs on this album stuck in my head for how catchy they are such as the intro to “Sons of Belial”, the rhythm work before the catchy section of “Planetary Duality II (A Prophecies Fruition)” with the female vocal, as well as most of the riffs in the first half of “Legions of the Serpent.” Not only are some of the riffs catchy, but the song structures throughout the cd allow for a rather easy listen. Sure, there are a few random bits thrown in every now and then, but I don’t think that it’s unforgivable given how fast the songs move.
With that said, we can move on to the major flaw of this album; the songs move so quickly that the album is over before you know it. There are nine tracks on Planetary Duality. Two of them are filler running at a combined time of 2:18, and a third track on the album that kicks the whole thing off titled “Prison Born” doesn’t do a better job either with a running time of 1:59. I think that if these three filler songs had bee further pursued and turned into actual songs that had running times longer than a minute and a half the album wouldn’t seem so short. It’d still be a bit on the quick side, but it would definitely seem more satisfying than it is in its current condition. Unless Michael Keene and the rest of The Faceless were purposely trying to whet our pallets to anticipate the next release, which definitely worked for me and a few individuals I know, then I think they could’ve put a little more effort into increasing the running time.
The only other minimal flaw that I’m able to find in this album would have to be Keene’s singing. While his singing can fit in certain songs such as “Coldly Calculated Design”, it certainly doesn’t in “Sons of Belial” which is then only part that I dislike in the entire release. I give him kudos for putting clean vocals amongst all of the chaos and being able to pull it off half the time, but I really think that was a big mistake on his part for trying to include that in the song, especially for how well the rest of the song is put together.
Overall, I would say that minus the cheesy singing and short run time, Planetary Duality is leaps and bounds better than Akeldama, and is well worth a listen by anyone that’s a fan of highly technical metal with melodic passages, well composed solos, and a slight hint a black metal influence within many of the main riffs.
Stand out songs: “Planetary Duality II (A Prophecies Fruition)”, “Sons of Belial”, and “XenoChrist”.
It's about damn time. The only two tech-death bands that are interesting to listen to are Necrophagist and now, The Faceless.
"Akeldama" was a phenomenal record especially with how the sound of the album changed. One second you'd have -core shit the next you have pure, avenging death metal. It couldn't decide if it was deathcore or tech death so it did both and it was a good record. Now The Faceless are back with 'Planetary Duality' and it's an ass-kicker for sure. It may not be the most original album ever, but who gives a fuck? Music hasn't been original for a long time. Now it's all about who executes it the best and The Faceless is up there.
The album's production is fantastic. The bass drum isn't too overpowering and it's not too soft. The guitars are ace; easily some of the best guitar work I've ever seen. The bass is pretty audible which adds to the space theme of the album. That's another thing. The theme of this album compliments the writing style and production so well that it's just a perfect little package of insane guitar and drum work. Every tempo shift fits so perfectly going from insane blast beats to more of a beat to atmospheric noises and back all over again. Even the guitar solos are a fucking masterpiece: a mix of jazz and pure technicality ("XenoChrist") that are sure to stick with you like a gnat (in a good way). The vocals, however, are some of the best in metal. They're not too overpowering like Necrophagist's vox (still love 'phagist though) and they're not too subtle like Origin. They're perfect. "Demon Carcass" attempts some other vocal styles on this album which are the vocoder and clean vocals... and they work really well! The cleans are a bit weird, but they still fit. The vocoder vocals are superb; the space theme is really brought out with the alien vocoder vocals hes using. There's some atmospheric tracks ("Shape Shifters", "Hideous Revelation") that bring out the space theme even more and... man, this album kicks ass. Every riff is so well placed and it's not done in an abrasive manner like some tech death bands.
The only reason this album gets a 95 is some songs drag on a little past their mark and this album ends way too quickly. It's about 30 minutes in length which isn't enough to satisfy the hungry metalhead. On top of this, there are way too many blast beats on this album and the snare starts to get obnoxious after the 572nd blast beat. Still, despite its faults, this is one album ever metalhead needs to own to witness the pure brutality, technicality and execution done by this band.
Pick this album up! You won't regret it.
Ok, so a few years ago, there was this band called The Faceless who made this album called Akeldama. It had a bit of the "rough debut album" syndrome, but otherwise was an excellent technical deathcore release, mixing melodic death riffs, Necrophagist like leads, and technical hardcore rhythms within a progressive sound scape. A lot of people noticed them and they began their way out of obscurity.
With their second album, they have decided to move into new territory, now that they have plenty of fans from both the metal crowd and the scene kids club. They dropped the deathcore and are now pure technical death metal. But unfortunately the output, this Planetary Duality, makes me wish they stuck with the deathcore.
I guess, based off the title and lyrics of the songs here, the album is suppose to be some sort of space themed album, showing how cold and lifeless it is. If that is true then I admit, they really got the lifeless theme down pat. The guitars employ the typical technical death routine; constant time changes and jarring rhythms, strange riffs and abstract chord phrases, arpeggios up the wazoo, and crazy solos. They basically go through the motions in this album, leaving little else to show as to why one would want to listen to Planetary Duality as oppose to the hundreds other technical death metal albums out there that are playing basically the same thing. I wish I could say more, but really that almost sums up all the guitar work here. I admit though, I really like how some of the solos are handled on here (particularly the one in Cold Calculated Design), with their jazzy rhythms, and colorful chord progression.
The drums are not bad. Typical technical work (jumping from pattern to pattern, constant fills, switching up rhythm styles every few seconds), but he also has a sense of dynamics, and plays what one would think is the appropriate beat to go along with he parallel riff in a given moment on each song. The production is actually really sick though, with the pounding kicks, to the shattering crashes. Similar can be said about the vocals. Mr. "Demon Carcass" delivers some solid growls and raspy shrieks and the production does well in keeping the gutturals loud and deep.
The biggest problem here is that it so intolerably generic; its a far cry from what Akeldama was. That debut showcased its own flavor of deathcore, with its frantic yet catchy melodies, its unorthodox yet grooving riffs, and its strong atmospheric. The album had that dark, cryptic feel and the reason that was so was because of the keyboards. Unfortunately the keyboardist left, and it seems that they haven't found a replacement yet. However there is some studio performed keyboards on here, but they hardly appear on any of the songs, and when they do, it is to play some bogus organ chords for a few seconds, or some hardly noticeable synths.
But The Faceless, I guess, could sense that and decides to try their hand at throwing some "progressive elements" on the record. First thing would be the random clean guitar breaks that show off how "jazzy" they are, a technique that is abused too much in technical death metal these days. Then there is the new vocal techniques... oh god. First we have the vocoder vocals that make an appearance randomly in some of the songs. After hearing it done here, I can see why the vocoder isn't a very common tool used in metal. Its this bubbly, alien sounding thing that just sorta showcases how "weird" it sounds, as oppose to providing anything musical to the songs. Then there is the awkward clean vocals. They try and sound really intense but all they accomplish is a strange LaBrie impression.
I guess the biggest problem on here is that they are hardly trying anything new, and thus have ended up as faceless (pun not intended) technical death metal # 1594820352-billion. The album isn't bad, but just boring, bland, and incredibly generic.
After witnessing this unfortunate change in this band, I realized something about technical death metal. Most assume that technical death metal is just suppose to be some guy showing off his chops with some death metal riffs here and there. I really think its something far different. I think the main goal of technical death metal should be to explore, discover, and write new riffs, phrases, and musical ideas that sound cool, but so happen to be really technical. It is these technical death metal players' duty to explore and find new and sweet riffs that normal guitar players wouldn't be able to play. I think the old school technical death metal bands (Atheist, Cynic, etc) understood that but that art got lost somewhere and the modern death metal bands now go down their path of boring technicality. If somehow the modern bands started to follow that philosophy then I think more people would like technical death metal more, and not associate it with mindless wankery.
The Faceless seemed to think that as well on their album Akeldama, which really a collection of really awesome riffs, melodies, and overall songs that just so happened to require technical proficient players to play. But somewhere in between, they decided to drop that and just try and emulate their favorite technical death metal bands. Now they have lost their creativity and color, and ended up being another gray and lifeless tech death group.
Traditionally in the world of underground death metal, technical proficiency is an easy measuring stick by many fans. I can understand why, as instrumental skill is the most audible form of hard work a band can do that listeners can understand and recognize.
The previous album by The Faceless included keyboards and single-note breakdowns, and both are gone. On this album, the majority of the sound is based round Decrepit Birth with Decapitated style chug-alongs, with good portions technical and progressive runs. In fact, the large majority of the album is based around choppy, jumpy progressive merged with death metal, used to showcase strange time signatures and guitar sprints. There’s even a few moments where a vocoder is used, as well as full-on, clean sung prog piping.
The first problem that’s most evident is the snare drum, as when it’s time for a blast beat, much of the tone is lost, and it becomes a wooden clunk. I’m not sure what the problem is, whether it’s being mixed into the album in a certain fashion, the way the drummer hits the snare during a blast, or if it simply becomes more audible because it’s being hit so often, but when used in more traditional beats, the snare seems fine.
The other problems stem from the problems that progressive music in general has always faced, as the off-time jumping and movement between tempos happens so often that there’s never any steady flow, and only makes the other technical shows more superficial. In the end, much like any form of progressive, from rock to death metal, you’ve heard much of this album done by many bands before.
Originally posted at www.waytooloud.com
Since the release of "Akeldama", The Faceless have been an acquired taste to metal heads and scene kids alike. From the pummeling and extremely technical riffs with pounding blasts and the occasional breakdowns, they were highly praised and criticized. With their new album "Planetary Duality", they've trashed the deathcore sound and have brought on a full technical death metal sound reminiscent of Spawn of Possession, Odious Mortem, and a lick of Cynic.
This is NOT what you'd expect from a once-deathcore act. They pull off the sound extremely well. The riffs are original and well thought out, a long with the drumming and impressive bass work. Michael Keene has progressed a lot since Akeldama. Every track on this album has shitton of sweeps, arpeggios, and shred work that will amaze pretty much everyone. Technical death metal gets boring to a lot of people, due to the fact that it's a strain of time changes and lacks accessibility. This is not the case for Planetary Duality. In Akeldama, they used different drummers for each track. Recently The Faceless added Lyle Cooper to their lineup as drummer and he doesn't disappoint.
The drumming for Planetary Duality is very original, it's something you haven't heard due to the complex time changes and signatures. It varies from blasts to jazz-like hi-hat patterns. Now to the vocals, Demon Carcass returns and has not lost his touch. His vocals are better than ever in PD, somewhat similar to Spawn of Possession. They are very well put, along with the clean/vocoder vocals put in by Keene.
The album is amazing in every way. They do not only stick to the technical death metal approach, such as in "Xenochrist" and "Sons of Belial" when they pull off actually GOOD black metal. Though this album is spectacular, it isn't revolutionary and it most likely won't cause a huge stir of commotion in the death metal community. The only fault with it is the shortness of the album, it goes by very very quickly and it's not very pleasing that they contain somewhat necessary fillers such as Shape Shifters and PD 1: Hideous Revelation.
Get this album, it'll compliment your collection and keep you occupied for weeks.
First and foremost, let me say that this album didn’t receive a perfect score because of it’s length. It is way too short. I felt the same way about Akeldama, this band’s brilliant previous release. I was really hoping that Planetary Duality was the hour or so long opus I know they have in them.
That being said, this is about as good of an album that you can purchase, past or present. The mix of sheer brutality, technical virtuosity, creative lyrics, and spot on artwork is near perfect. Expectations were high, based on the power and passion of Akeldama, and they have not disappointed, save the aforementioned issue of length.
The cover art sets the tone for the album perfectly, as does the shattered planet look of the disc itself. A science fiction feel is appropriate, although further analysis reveals much about the content of the lyrics. They aren’t actually fiction, depending on how you view the world today. Fans of David Icke and researchers of truth regarding the way the world REALLY is will instantly recognize the songs as observations on the current state of society and how we got to this point. Conspiracy veterans will also love the classic clip from Art Bell’s radio call in show. Not surprising in this age of mass media, the lyrical content will go grossly under appreciated and misunderstood. However, even if misunderstood, the metaphors stand on their own as creative and thought provoking, unlike most lyrics in this genre.
As for the music, it is difficult to fully grasp upon first listen. This is common within the genre, as the many layers are best revealed through familiarity. It is well schooled in extreme progressive music theory, but doesn’t feel plagiarized at any point. Drawing from the past, they have created a sound and tone that is hard to match in terms of precision and creativity. Guitarist and producer Michael Keene “Machine” has officially cemented his reputation as one of the premier young minds in the music industry. The solos on the album are nothing short of spectacular. His production pulls it all together and gives wonderful cohesion to all parts.
Steve Jones’ expert riffage is complemented by Brandon Giffin’s amazing use of the bass guitar. He plays an awe-inspiring mixture of harmonies and his own mini-solos, taking the breath of anyone keeping up with it. It is hard with the guitars jamming and drums blasting to always keep up with the bass lines, but they are there, and they are fantastic.
The LA area band turned to San Antonio native Lyle Cooper to handle the drumming full-time (FINALLY) and he nails his debut with The Faceless. His style is typical of so many talented metal drummers, but a well-trained ear will appreciate his varied and tasteful blend of rolls, blasts, and double kicks. He keeps pace with his proven peers as well as manages to mix in his own Texas touch to the material.
Derek “Demon Carcass” Rydquist’s vocals are arguably the best in the business. It’s the tone he bellows that sets him apart from his fellow vocalists. And his ability to roar lyrics at the same speed the instruments are shredding around him. His voice is a spine-tingling experience over and over again. Keene adds some vocoder action and clean vocals in places, but they feel appropriate and add a new angle to the onslaught. And in an age when most clean vocals are frankly weak and contrived, these show the bands progression and maturity. As I mentioned before, the lyrics are a bone chilling commentary on some frightening observations. Few will fully appreciate the accuracy here, but those that do will be delighted to know what they are REALLY talking about.
As I mentioned before, this band has to be seen to be appreciated. They faithfully create the notes heard on their albums with fierce efficiency. Jones’ shredding is accurate and precise, Keene’s solos will melt your face, Giffin’s bass lines have to be seen to believe, and Demon Carcass’s voice is possibly the greatest live roar in the history of metal. Please do yourself a favor and see them play to have a whole new perspective on what it means to create and recreate this music night in and night out.
Overall, Planetary Duality is without a doubt the best album of the year. The Faceless blend intelligence, brutality, technicality, and precision on an album that raises the bar for the current generation of extreme music.
Following their explosive debut "Akeldama" The Faceless are back with a more mature sound and songwriting sensibility.
Planetary Duality is a loose concept album, based around alien invasion. Knowing this, and viewing the amazing album artwork (Same artist as Spawn of Possession’s “Noctambulant”) gives off a very spacey feel. The album itself definitely follows this trend.
Planetary Duality introduces a more progressive side to the Faceless, incorporating a diverse range of influences to create an intense tech-death record. Clear influences from Cynic and Necrophagist are heard but they do not overpower The Faceless’ unique sound. Many will be also pleased to hear they have rid themselves of most "core" influences from “Akeldama” but they have done so without losing their trademark sound.
With tech-death instrumentation is always key, and in this department The Faceless do not disappoint. Both guitarists provide a variety of dissonant riffs, chugging and sweeps. Lead guitarist Michael Keene impresses with unique rhythmic style of soloing in nearly every song. Drum wise it is what you expect, a large amount of fast blasting and double kicking. Although not overly unique, the drummer does his job superbly. As with many albums these days the bass guitar is low in the mix, so bassist Brandon Griffin is usually just providing a bit of backing to the guitarists.
Vocally the album has what most other death metal bands do, but Derek "Demon Carcass" Rydquist Is definitely above average and growling, shrieking and the occasional mid-range scream (See Sons Of Belial). Guitarist Michael Keene provides Cynic-esque Vocoder vocal parts, and although they break the monotony of the usual vocal style, they sound a bit, well nasally. In a pre-production demo of “The Ancient Covenant” They sounded less grinding. He also uses clean vocal parts (infrequently) which offer variation but sometimes feel out of place.
The album starts off with “Prison Born” which is one of the best introduction songs I have heard in a long time. In it’s short 2-minute run-time it crams in lots of shredding, a lot of blasting, a small breakdown and a very tasteful solo.
Another standout track for me is “XenoChrist” which starts in a similar fashion to “The Ancient Covenant” and “Coldly Calculated Design” But goes into a very black metal influenced section about 25 seconds in. A “shredding” solo starts at 1:45 and runs into a quieter, more ambient section, which provides a spacey feel. The song closes on a chugging riff with a subtle keyboard melody on top.
With every album, there are always flaws. The main one with this album is the run-time. With a total of 7 songs and two short interludes, the album clocks in at a very short 31 minutes. For some, another flaw will be the presence of breakdowns. But as they are well executed and never feel forced, this isn’t a huge con. The lack of a full time keyboardist is also apparent, and although there are sections with keyboards, they are never as well executed as the parts on “Akeldama”.
Overall “Planetary Duality” is a very high quality tech-death album. Had there been another 2 songs, more keyboard and less irritating vocoder, I would be inclined to give it a higher mark, but I settle with a great 90% score. Hopefully The Faceless can overcome these problems and build on this album for their 3rd record.
Well, first off let me start by saying that The Faceless certainly deserve a large amount of respect. I thoroughly enjoyed "Akeldama", but along with several other metal-heads out there, I wanted to hear them rid themselves of the "core" aspects of their sound. I will go ahead and say they have successfully done that with the release of "Planetary Duality". This album introduces a much more technical/progressive sound which was present in small doses on "Aleldama", but not nearly as present as it is on this album. Those who are looking for a lot of sustained 4/4 and 6/8 time signatures should not pick this album up. At all. I would describe the musicianship of The Faceless on this album in a few simple words: extremely, extremely talented.
The sound "Planetary Duality" carries is very interesting. Most of the songs typically have an original feel, which is not too common in tech-death metal. I had a feeling by looking at the album cover that it would be a spacey sound, and that is definitely what is presented. Overall, it just sounds very futuristic, like science-fiction.
The guitars have a very thick tone and sound great. Michael Keene's solos are really amazing. They really have a lot of variety, although I can definitely say that they could easily come straight off of a Meshuggah album from Fredrik Thordendal. My favorite aspect of the guitar work would have to be the chord choices though. This album has some of the most original chords I've ever heard. They have a very dissonant feel, which works perfectly with this style. Overall, Keene and Steve Jones' guitars really compliment each other. You can hear them each individually because each guitar is panned to each side. If you are a fellow guitar player like myself, you'll probably want to go ahead and give this album a try, very original guitar work. The bass, although a tad low in the mix, sounds great. They obviously made sure Brandon Giffin got his opportunity to shine as a gifted bass player on this album, as they did with "Akeldama". The Faceless also got something they wished for on this album, a drummer to play on every track on the album. Lyle Cooper does a fantastic job on this album. The drums sound great and sound like typical tech-death drums, but there are definitely some great moments by Cooper on this album. Finally, the vocals. Derek "Demon Carcass" Rydquist executes death metal vocals perfectly. He is definitely one of the best out there. Period. Great high screams as well (and some well-executed black metal vocals on "Xeno Christ"). I think the Cynic-styled vocoder or "robot" vocals work great with sound and are used at the right times, especially in "The Ancient Covenant". The only part of the vocals that don't work well are Keene's clean vocals. While he does have a nice voice, they just don't work with this style, in my opinion.
Overall, "Planetary Duality" is definitely a high-quality tech-death album. Really the only downside is the short length of the album as a whole, and a couple of weak tracks ("Sons of Belial" goes all over the place way too much). The total playing time is only 31:42. While that leaves more to be desired, there is surely some great work on this album. I give it an 88.
Stand-Out tracks: "The Ancient Covenant", "Coldly Calculated Design", "Xeno Christ", "Planetary Duality II: A Prophecies Fruition", "Legion of the Serpent"
Forgettable tracks: "Sons of Belial", "Planetary Duality I: Hideous Revelation"