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Poorly mixed "epic" background music - 25%

Derigin, December 20th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

Awful. Behind the Front Page is your typical, failed attempt at "folk" metal, showcasing a complete and total misunderstanding of the genre. What makes this album worse than others of its kind is that the failure in execution is not simply a product of ignorance - as you might expect from a band that sees folk metal solely as "metal with folk instruments sprinkled in." No, what Atlas Pain failed to grasp is that a badly mixed album built on all the clich├ęs of folk metal - perhaps even metal in general - is not something worth aspiring to do in any serious endeavor. On the whole, the only thing that makes this album "folk" is - like so many other lackluster attempts at the genre - how folk sounds are added here and there, willy-nilly. The only thing that makes this marginally acceptable "metal" is that the guitarwork is decent... and even that is giving credit to artists that might not deserve it. This isn't even a disappointing album - everything that was done was done so poorly that it's difficult to glean any redemption out of it.

So where to start? The first thing any avid listener will gather from this music is that the mixing is off - the music is functionally cacophonous (and not in the good sense of the term!). Of the six tracks featured, all of them suffer from this same problem... as though the person ultimately responsible for putting together the songs had no ear for music. The most obvious case is in the way folk instruments - and I say that loosely, they all appear to just be flowery, Celtic-inspired keyboard samples - have been layered on the rest of the music; at times they overshadow the rest and don't fit at all with the underlying rhythm and theme set by the other instruments. Less obviously, the standard fare of instruments - guitars, drums, and vocals - also come off as disjointed and occasionally off-key. Ignoring the awful decision to use -core-based, growled vocals with all the fixings of that particular style, the manner of their use is both pretentious and obnoxious. On their own, storybook lyrics of "fairy tales, fantastic creatures, and epic battles" might already evoke the feeling of cheese, but the nasally, whiny, arrogant vocals certainly add to that feeling. Without all the issues with the mixing, I might have dismissed these shortcomings in the music as the band going through a bit of a learning curve. With the mixing, however, it just shows utter incompetence. You almost have to wonder if this is an elaborate troll. Was this all done on purpose?

A part of me certainly leans towards the possibility that the band can't possibly take this album seriously. One of the ways that's evident is through the band's justification for creating this album: it all leans on this album tapping into that "epic" metal that has become so popular over the last decade. You might know what I mean - that music you find when you search "Epic Battle Soundtracks" on YouTube and find fifteen hour compilations of easily made, practically regurgitated shit that you see being played on repeat in the background of every MMO. I wouldn't say that Behind the Front Page goes so far as to have fallen down that rabbit hole, but the album certainly leans on it. Who knows, maybe from a popular point of view the band is tapping a goldmine with this music. And if that's the case, they're brilliant and worth at least a 25% score. That doesn't excuse a terrible album of awful music, however.

Do I recommend this? Unless you are one of the aforementioned individuals who would look up and enjoy mass manufactured "epic" metal, than you will not enjoy this. In fact, I would even go so far as to suggest that most individuals who might use this site value elements in their metal music that go beyond superficial, shallow attempts at appealing to fans of music who have no interest in the band or album - just the same, valueless music played in the background of your "epic" study session. I don't mean to be critical of such people - I certainly know the appeal of background music while studying - but that does not mean music made for that purpose has much intrinsic value in its own right. Behind the Front Page is one of those albums (and an album executed poorly). Perhaps Atlas Pain will have something less groan-worthy in the future, but I'm not holding my breath.