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Well, It’s an Improvement from Last Time... - 73%

Malacoda, December 26th, 2009

After the 2007 southern-rock/metal disaster of “Temptation Come My Way”, The Showdown seemed to have thrown away all the potential they displayed on their first album, “A Chorus of Obliteration”. Fortunately, the Showdown has managed to reverse this trend (somewhat) on their most recent release “Back Breaker”.

The songs on “Back Breaker” are structured pretty simply, with clearly defined intros, verses, outros, and choruses. Unfortunately, The Showdown has incorporated a lot of cliché techniques on this album, including useless drawn-out pauses (“Aphrodite – the Disillusionaire”) and evidence of the Showdown’s new entrance onto the breakdown bandwagon. However, the band does manage to create a lot of catchy grooves in their songwriting, and the synchronization between the drums and the rhythm section is very tight. The album as a whole is very heavy, excluding the attempted ballads.

There have definitely been some major changes in the guitarwork from the last album. There’s a huge improvement in the soloing – both in the technical skill and the quality of the solos; pentatonics, diminished licks, and natural minor patterns are all included. Another notable point is the tasteful use of pinch harmonics (Chorus of “Hephaestus – Hammer of the Gods”). Furthermore, their tone is fantastic on this album. Unfortunately, the Showdown is still plagued by some of the guitar issues from their previous albums. There is an abominable overuse of whammy bar tricks and pick slides. In addition, there are a TON of power chords left to ring, which gets old really, really fast. Basically, the Showdown has a problem similar to the one that Unearth faced on their album “The March” – their leads are great, but their rhythms are boring, repetitive, just plain bad, or all three, and there are nowhere near enough leads on this album.

The vocalist has changed from hardcore screams & clean vocals on the first album and southern-style wailing on “Temptation Come My Way” to that quintessential metalcore is-he-screaming-or-singing-I-can’t-fucking-tell vocal style. This is pretty bad, because while his voice is powerful, it’s really annoying when you can’t determine if the vocalist is supposed to be melodic or harsh. This is actually probably for the better, because his true clean vocals sound like Nickelback. That’s not a joke, just listen to “Cerberus – the Hellhound Awaits” or “Medea – One Foot in Hell” and you’ll swear that Nickelback got slightly heavier. Only slightly, because the attempted ballads fail miserably and sound like pop/rock songs. The band also employs some great gang shouts in songs like “Achilles – the Back Breaker”. Lyrically, most of the songs are about Greek Mythology, which is slightly unusual because the last album was entirely Christian (the Showdown IS a Christian band).

Drumming on this album uses a ton of double bass triplets and straight 16th notes, which sound heavy but get boring after repeated use. Expertly written tom fills add some needed heaviness and remove some of the monotony established by the constant double bass work. The random use of cowbells throws in some excitement.

Unfortunately (again), the bass is rarely audible – I couldn’t even hear it when I turned the bass booster on my stereo on – but when you can hear, which is sadly very, very rare, it sounds pretty good. There aren’t any other instruments, besides some random battle sound bytes, to enhance this album further.

The production on this album is half good and half bad. The vocals are too high, and the drums are too low, but otherwise it sounds great – each individual instrument sounds tight and punchy, but in an overall setting, the levels just needed to be tweaked a little before this album was released.

Even though the potential the Showdown displayed on “A Chorus of Obliteration” was almost totally annihilated on “Temptation Come My Way”, they have managed to revive some of that potential on “Back Breaker”. However, while this IS a solid metalcore album, there are other metalcore bands doing this a lot better, and more originally. “Back Breaker” just isn’t up to the current metalcore standards – this was released in 2008, and since nearly everyone is bored of metalcore by now, a new metalcore album has to be really fucking good to reach our standards of appreciation.

Solid, but just a little too solid. - 70%

duncang, September 7th, 2008

Back Breaker. The name itself just screams ‘macho’ and the album cover, despite the vaguely homoerotic undertones, follows suit. I think taking a quick look at the front and back of this CD should tell you just about everything you need to know about The Showdown. They’re a tough talking, tough riffing four-piece out of Tennessee serving up their 3rd album for anyone with a head to bang. Thick, sludgy battery is this band’s forté and it comes in bucketfuls, with riff after riff in the same minor key. Of course, that could be construed as a bit of a problem, but anyone who’s going to mind is not the sort to enjoy this music anyway. The band really nailed their sound, especially considering that they only have one guitarist, as the texture through this whole album is just god damn heavy.

Details on this album are few and far between, as there is little variety and an almost constant unison between all four instruments. Drums, bass and guitars are united for 90% of the time for sonic effect, keeping the rhythm section very, very tight. The vocals are also very much rhythm-based as well, despite often bursting into saturated chorus harmonies. David Bunton sings commandingly at all times, implementing mostly midrange snarls and an equally midrange singing voice, however a lot of the time the sound of his vocals can be quite thin. This is more because the other three instruments combined absolutely knock them out in terms of power than it is because of any problems with Bunton’s delivery.

Whilst some mixing issues mar the vocal power that this album could easily have had, the lyrics are definitely consistent. Each songtitle has a prefix of a particularly mythological Greek God, and The Showdown manage to combine that theme with their own puissant tendencies. The end result is the sort of ‘war cry’ styled battle lyrics that have now become quite old. However, a lack of variety works for them musically and the lyrics compliment that, though there is a hint of atmospheric flair that reflects some intelligence behind the testosterone-fuelled bravado of it all.

Only the most hard-headed listener will be able to stomach this whole album in one sitting, but when looking for a simple, effective and utterly heavy set of songs, there are few reasons why you wouldn’t go for this. Innovation isn’t on the cards, and some mixing problems do plague the core songwriting, but ‘Back Breaker’ is a tightly cut slab of riffs, thunder and brawn. It’s good fun and worth listening to simply for the crushing heaviness of some of the finer cuts, such as ‘Infernus -- You Will Move’ and ‘Achilles -- The Backbreaker’.

Originally written for www.ultimate-guitar.com

The Showdown: Proving that groove CAN be good - 85%

rathofgod, August 19th, 2008

From their days as a pop-punk band named 2540, The Showdown has undergone change after change, both in line-up and in style. From the whiney vocals required for pop-punk to the crushing death growls and screams of their debut, A Chorus of Obliteration. From the technical guitars of Chorus to the intermediate-level riffs and melodic solos of their second album, Temptation Come My Way. The Showdown traded br00tality for accessibility on Temptation, but still somehow managed to sound good. Now, with their third release, Backbreaker, I think it’s fair to say that The Showdown has come into their own.

When any fan of metal hears the phrase ‘southern groove/heavy metal’ it has been my experience that they immediately jump to conclusions. Usually any band that would stick itself with this moniker gets thrown into the mental box of ‘Pantera worship bands’ and ignored, and rightly so. The Showdown, however, deserves a second look, and especially on this album.

Gone are the days of Temptation’s melodic riffs interrupted by semi-technical breakdowns. Backbreaker’s guitar lines are exceptional in every sense of the word, the technical riffs and solos providing the backbone of this record. (Heh heh, the backbone of Backbreaker, get it?). There’s also plenty of wammy bar dive-bombing, and an abundance of Dime squeals (which, say what you will, still sound really cool when put to good use). Throw in some fast palm muted riffs in the style of Randy Rhodes, some nice tapping solos and you have the recipe for some epic guitar wins.

The vocals, however, still leave something to be desired. Not really screaming, not really singing, David Bunton doesn’t seem to be able to make up his mind as to what he wants to do and, as a result, ends up sounding a little more like Phil Anselmo than I would have liked. Fortunately, the band still manages to avoid the Pantera worship mentioned above. It would be nice, though, if Mr. Bunton would make up his mind rather than trying to please fans of both Temptation and Chorus at once.

Backbreaker kicks things off with a two and a half minute jam appropriately titled ‘Titanomachy-The Beginning’, before charging headlong into the anthemic ‘Hephastaeus-The Hammer of the Gods’. Some other stand out tracks include the title track ‘Achilles-The Backbreaker’, which boasts a rousing chorus, ‘Prometheus-The Fires of Deliverance’, featuring a cool guitar break over a stop-time rhythm track and ‘Aries-I Am Vengeance’ which showcases my personal favorite lyrics on the album.

The only track that really stands out in a negative way is the, quite frankly, lame ‘Infernus-You Will Move’. It seems as if the band kind of ran out of creative steam after writing eight solid songs and decided just to throw this together out of the pieces that they had left over. Much like the leftovers after Thanksgiving dinner, it just isn’t the same as the actual meal.

They recover quickly, however, with ‘Nemesis-Give us This Day’, a song that originally appeared as the bonus track on the European version of A Chorus of Obliteration. I also could have done without the two ballads ‘Cerberus-The Hellhound Awaits’ and ‘Medea-One Foot in Hell’, but that’s just personal opinion. Not that those songs are particularly bad, just that I find them kind of boring.

All in all, Backbreaker is a solid album featuring catchy choruses, some great guitar work, excellent drumming and some decent vocal lines. It kind of makes me wish, though, that they would just go back to what they were really good at and make another album along the lines of Chorus. This album may not be the most ‘tr00’ album ever released, and it may not be really ‘br00tal’, but it’s a good, fun listen and it does prove that groove metal isn’t all bad.