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Adventures in -core land II:Emo Stephen Hawkings - 83%

Evangelion2014, December 19th, 2010

You know the common gripes that metalheads have about metalcore? Too many breakdowns, the whiny clean vocals, the pop song structures and the shameless repetitive Gothenburg worship? Well, the main strength of this album is it largely avoids these pitfalls and creates a solid listening experience.

Production wise, it's squeaky clean as you would expect from any metalcore act this mainstream. As usual, bass is nowhere to be found. The only thing really out the ordinary is the amount of delay present on the drums, it's enough that you can still hear a bit of each drum hit by the time another comes up.

Structurally you either have a standard verse chorus format or a more melodeath influenced song setup where a handful of riffs largely are the driving force of the song. Guitar work consists of one guitar playing disjointed, stop-start melodic death type riffs consisting of single notes on the high end of the scale, occasionally developing a minor variation on the riff but usually opting for hammering one riff into your head. The rhythm guitar usually plays breakdown-esque chugs. Sometimes both guitars abandon this format and instead fully utilize their potential to create dueling harmonies such as in 'Meaning in Tragedy' and the simultaneous tremolo lick around the one minute mark in 'Morning Waits'. Unfortunately, soloing is largely forgone on this album, a short solo popping up in 'Empty Hearts' and 'Truth of My perception';sadly the solo work is mostly aimless wandering around the scale without too much direction. The strongest moments of the album are where the band steps out of the confines of the metalcore genre and experiment a bit, like the tech death like riff in 'Truth of My perception' and the brooding tremolo intro in 'Reflections'.

It wouldn't be a metalcore album without those dreaded core elements, but for the most part they actually help the album rather than hurting it, as I don't believe the album can stand up purely on it's metal elements alone. The guitar work is too limited and repetitive, with a sense of disconnect and a lack of groove (or catchiness) resulting from the fragmented riffing. The drum work is also fairly basic, without a lot of interesting fills coming from the fact that the drums usually follow the rhythm guitars.

Fortunately, the (post) hardcore elements prop up the weaker metal portion of the sound. The lyrics are either generic Christian themed prose or your stock emo lyrics, but the vocalist manages to deliver his growling with enough conviction and anger that it doesn't hurt the album. The choruses in some songs using clean vocals are keep the riffs from getting stale, as do the breakdowns, which are used sparsely enough and built up to properly so they have their intended intense crescendo effect rather than being a chore to listen to. The hardcore elements also bring in a bit of variation in melody, such as the mathcore like riffs in 'illusions' and the melodic climax in 'Repeating Yesterday'. A slight problem is results from the stupidity of the lyrics in that song when a robotic Stephen Hawkings like voice repeats what sounds like bad emo poetry. Similarly in the opener 'Confined' the whiny chorus is somewhat cringe inducing with the lyrics 'How quickly I forget that this is meaningless'. As I said before though, the cliche metalcore elements don't show up too often and ultimately thats what makes this a rare specimen: a good metalcore album.