Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2020
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

Not Bad for a Sophomore - 70%

Petrus_Steele, August 4th, 2019
Written based on this version: 1999, CD, Devils Head Records

Through the Looking Glass for the most part has much better quality and production than what Letters offered. Not only the production is of quality but the instruments also sound better, more technical or challenging, the drums are more intriguing and the bass is more audible. As for the vocals, either Tobias or Adam, one of the two have incorporated death growls, so this record isn't just an improvement, but it's also heavier.

This album also features new members of this current and final lineup: the blasting, shredding duo from Killswitch Engage that we (the fans) all know and love; one of them obviously being Adam D., but the other one - and the one that replaced Jonathan Donais after he already helped established Shadows Fall, the 19-year-old Joel Stroetzel joined the band. On drums, and seemingly underrated, Tom Gomes also joined the band during that time and he was also with the band during Killswitch Engage's opus magnum and another blueprint to more modern bands, Alive or Just Breathing. And the bassist, Chris Fortin wasn't exactly a full-time member until the second split (with State Craft) was released with the former bassist, Neil Gadbois. Thought after the second split was released, this lineup was solid up until they finally disbanded in 2004, when they returned live to Japan.

Exactly like Letters, there are four tracks which were bad only with this record, it's the two instrumental tracks: the title track and Awaking the Dream. They both sounded like two fillers that didn't complement the music. As for the other two songs, which are Jabberwocky and Impenetrability, they were both straight up bad and didn't sound as good as the other six songs available on this record (and by six I'm also mentioning the vinyl version of this record, which contains the cover of We Just Might by Youth of Today - originally released on the split with the band Dive).

While this album isn't necessarily bad compared to Letters - and the fact that it has a stellar production, the music sounds great, the instruments are top-notch for the genre, that choice of an album cover - whatever, found it interesting, and that it really roots of the music that Adam D. eventually took with him when he formed Killswitch Engage, it didn't strike me with its power like Letters have. As I said, props to the production, the instruments, and even the atmosphere that features some chorus-effected guitars and bass, Letters was more fulfilling and the riffage alone beats Through the Looking Glass. The best songs are Prelude to Forever, Traversing the Gap, and My Own Invention.

What Metalcore Should Be - 91%

TheStormIRide, June 2nd, 2013

Aftershock was the reason that Boston area metalcore got famous. It's that simple. Before you say anything, just shut up and listen because no matter what argument you make, you're wrong. Killswitch Engage and Shadows Fall are mere byproducts. “But wait, Overcast formed first,” you say? It doesn’t matter one iota who or what formed first, because Aftershock released “Through the Looking Glass” and Overcast did not. I know it's a huge statement, but “Through the Looking Glass” could be one of metalcore's best albums, if not the best. So, ahem, let's address that extremely large pink elephant staring at me.

While Boston may have bred a lot of other styles, like the tough guy, beat down type hardcore, like Blood for Blood, and will be ever famous for the good old Irish punk bands like Dropkick Murphys, one of the best examples of one of the most widely popular and commercially successful sub-genres in metal continues to be completely and criminally overlooked. Now, in the past few years metalcore has seen somewhat of a decline of sorts, but rewind to the beginning of the new millennium and you couldn't take two steps without running headfirst into some type of metalcore fan boy or die hard scenester. Anytime Aftershock gets mentioned, it seems to only be in correlation to Killswitch Engage: Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroetzel did get together with some of the Overcast boys to form KSE back in 1999, but that’s after the fact. So when that is put into perspective, although “Through the Looking Glass” wasn’t released until the beginning of 2000, it was written and recorded before the inception of KSE and right before metalcore began its steady increase in popularity. It’s amazing though, because “Through the Looking Glass” wipes its ass with most of what is considered to be essential metalcore listening.

Aftershock’s “Through the Looking Glass” has everything that needs to be in a solid metalcore album. Dissonant riffs, scaled leads, chugging breakdowns, lots of grove, frantic vocals and extremely solid yet diverse drumming. This isn’t the most technical metalcore album nor is it the heaviest, but everything combines on this album to make one of the most memorable albums in metalcore history. The lyrical concept is loosely built around the works of Lewis Carroll. Yes, yes: some of the track titles and the album title itself do call to mind the adventures of Alice and the so-called wonderland, but rather than the whimsical and mind-altered world we’ve all read about, Aftershock’s lyrics focus on a darker side of inward perception and being lost in your own mind: an attempted balancing act between what is real and what is make believe.

The music of “Through the Looking Glass” also performs a delicate balancing act, dancing between crushing heaviness and airy soundscapes. Much like Killswitch Engage, a lot of the focus is on heavy riffing and scaled lead work. The album opens with the seven minute opus, “Prelude to Forever”, which builds from a delicate ambient buzz into a finger tapped guitar line backed by an increasingly heavy drum beat, which after two minutes of slow burning and building reaches a crushing crescendo of mid paced chugga chugga riffing. I’m not the biggest fan of chugging hardcore, but the way that this track builds from the simplistic chugging after the intro into a super catchy, thrash influenced riff with a punky drum beat a few moments later is incredible. Groove and hardcore usually mean some form of mallcore slash modern metal, but Aftershock injects and incredible amount of groove into their music while still being extremely heavy and extremely, well, metal. Aftershock bounces between chugging “junt, junt, junt” borderline breakdown sections and faster paced, super catchy and hook laden riffing several times. It’s almost like the band goes from breakdown to metal riffing to breakdown to metal riffing while the drums mix between punk beats and death metal runs.

I know that sounds like more metalcore albums out there, but how Aftershock continues the album is where they really stand out. The second track is an instrumental ambient piece showcasing a rather simplistic pattern of bells backed by a breathy, almost angelic, synthesized choral segment. It’s so simplistic, but after the heaviness of the first track, it allows a few moments of introspection before moving onto heavier things once more. The album progresses like that for the run time: heavier sections coupled next to lighter atmospheric pieces. The end of “Jabberwocky” and the album’s closer, “Awaking the Dream”, are also lighter pieces allowing for more inward thought.

I’ve noticed that a lot of metalcore acts have more in common with the melodic end of death metal, while Aftershock takes more cues from standard death metal, with dissonant riffing and more of a focus on power rather than melody. The guitars showcase a lot of this death metal influence, especially the trem picked section on tracks like “Traversing the Gap” and the thundering riffing with scaled fills on “My Own Intervention”. Syncopated, dual guitar leads also run rampant. The drums also delve into death metal here and there with blasting double bass and fast paced fills, but are much more cymbal heavy rather than the tom-heavy style of most death metal acts. Some sporadic militant drum sections are scattered throughout, like the marching beat produced during “Jabberwocky”. My favorite part of this album is how the music retains its heaviness with an amazingly accessible groove with all of the instruments playing so closely off of each other. There are a few more technical start / stop sections strewn through that showcase power chord strikes existing perfectly in time with a crash hits. “Living Backwards” shows this phenomenon when the music goes from a warbling lead line with running double bass into a grove-laden section with stomping drumming and open ended chord strikes.

Despite all of the catchy, crushing tracks and introspective ambiance, there are flaws here. The most notable flaws are during the track “Impenetrability”, which is a slower to mid paced song that bounces between a bass heavy segment with oddly timed drums and typical metalcore cleans (the ooh’s and aah’s that were so famous during the beginning of the 2000’s) and frantic drumming with a strangely toned lead guitar segment that I can only describe as sounding like the weird leads blasted on “Chaosphere” era Meshuggah. The intro to “Infinite Conclusion” also leaves a little bit to be desired with its choppy and wavering guitar line, but chord progressions building out of the introduction more than make up for it. Segments of the album do get bogged down with the overly frantic vocal style at times making it difficult to mesh with the instrumentation.

The production focuses heavily on the vocals and lead guitar lines, so some of the heavier riffing is muddied in the water along with the bass. The bass is forceful and thick but relatively standard and not forward enough in the mix to be too poignant. The vocals are extremely forward in the mix and range from a deep death metal styled growl to a higher pitched, faster paced, frantic shout. The production may not be as clean as the newer Shadows Fall albums, but it’s good enough to not be a distraction to the music.

Aftershock might not be a household name when it comes to metalcore, but it should be. While I like some parts of KSE and Shadows Fall, the less melodic and heavier approach of Aftershock is much more demanding and pummeling. Overcast is widely looked at as one of the creators and main innovators of the metalcore scene as we know it now, but Aftershock should receive much more credit than they get for the sparking of such a widely popular subgenre. Adam Dutkiewicz and crew created a metalcore monster before disbanding and seeking fame and fortune with KSE. “Through the Looking Glass” isn’t the most technical or the most crushingly heavy album ever, but all of the elements that it brings together into one cohesive album creates an incredible listening experience. If you consider yourself a fan of metalcore in the slightest you simply have to own this.