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Like the vast majority of people on this site, I have a generally low tolerance for metalcore and other sub-genres of that nature. As much as I've tried to get a taste for bands like Killswitch Engage and Lamb Of God, I've never been able to get my head around the bland song structures and vocals that generally come off as annoying more often than brutal. However, this band has become one of my musical guilty pleasures thanks to their own instrumental skill and a certain Youtube user's hilariously crafter parody...
In terms of style and structure, the songs on this album are done in the run of the mill metalcore method. Almost every song starts off some kind of building introduction, the verses and pre-choruses are often fast paced and led by harsher vocals, the choruses are always performed with melodic clean vocals, and a breakdown of sorts often leads to a technical guitar solo section. Of course there are a few exceptions to the established rule. "Dying In Your Arms" is a ballad of sorts dominated by melodic vocals during the verses and screams during the chorus and the last two songs attempt to go into more complex territory. Ironically, the latter two songs end up becoming the album's weakest tracks due to a seeming lack of focus...
The lyrics are also rather typical of the genre and generally seem to focus on feelings of angst, anxiety, and anger with some occasional lapses into more political/social themes. There aren't too many brilliant lines on here, but there does seem to have a bit of effort put into the lyrics' construction. It's certainly not as pretentious as anything on their next two efforts...
In the face of all the album's generic moments and predictable structures, the band's energetic performance is what seems to keep this album from the forgotten realms of faceless mediocrity. Drummer Travis Smith's (Not to be confused with the artist of the same name) solid performance injects life into these otherwise pedestrian tunes and the guitar playing manages to keep things lively with the fairly technical riffs and solos. The production also serves in the band's favor and helps create a fiery atmosphere that would make even the dullest filler somewhat listenable.
All of this, of course, brings us to vocalist/guitarist Matt Heafy... I hate to say it, but Heafy's vocals really seem to keep this album from being as listenable as it could be. While his screams do often fit in with the songs at hand, they are also performed without true aggression and his clean voice is ultimately bland. Having said that, he can still carry at times and the clean singing merely hints at the Hetfield influence that would overtake his voice on the following effort...
All in all, this is one of the better metalcore albums that I've ever heard though it's far from attaining a classic status. In fact, this isn't really even their best album. Personally, I'd recommend "The Crusade" to more melodically mindful metalheads and "Shogun" to those who wish to see these aspects of the band displayed with more interesting results...
1) Energetic drums and guitar playing
2) Great production
3) Even the fillers are relatively memorable
1) The vocals could've been a lot better
2) Repetitive song structures
3) Slightly generic lyrics
My Current Favorites:
"Rain," "Pull Harder On The Strings On Your Martyr," "A Gunshot To The Head Of Trepidation," "Dying In Your Arms," and "Suffocating Sight"