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Shut up and riff! - 72%

iamntbatman, June 26th, 2013

While this band is for some reason labeled as thrash/crossover, don't let that tag fool you: this is some bone-crunching, heavy as hell death/crust/hardcore. Fans of bands like Stormcrow and Black Breath would do well to give this band their time. While they don't quite compete with some of the giants of the genre, they're more than capable of destroying your neck and getting your fist pumping.

The riffs are quite thrashy, no doubt about that, but there's also a vague Bolt Thrower vibe in the band's charging chugging riffs. Listen to the punishing “Let Me Burn” for an example. There are also subtle hints of Asphyx and perhaps a touch of swedeath, especially in the occasional tremolo riffs. However, most of the guitar work is pretty firmly rooted in a metallicized caveman hardcore style that owes as much to Integrity as it does to death metal. There are some well-thought-out guitar solos scattered here and there, showing a level of technicality a step above similar bands that tend to eschew lead guitar in favor of non-stop riffery. The guitar tone employed on this album works perfectly, with loads of attack for the faster muted riffs and tremolo bits, but with enough sustain and weight to give the mosh breaks plenty of crushing sludge. Drums are about what you'd expect, loads of d-beats and thrash beats, with huge stomps for the breakdowns. No blasting, but there are tasteful bouts of rumbling double bass rolls. The drum production is such that they're fully audible but sit a little further back in the mix, letting the guitars do the dirty work.

One of the album's major downfalls is the vocal performance. Stephen McCall is a proficient hardcore shouter, but that's about the extent of his technique. No deeper death growls, no higher shrieks, even very few gang shouts. This gives the whole of the album's vocals a very monotonous feel that wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that McCall rarely shuts his mouth. From the opening bars to the close of each song, the guy spews his venom nearly constantly. It's a bit frustrating, not only because you're stuck hearing the guy bellow for the album's duration (again, not that he's bad, but ear fatigue does start to come into play) but because I get the distinct impression that the band's riffing suffers because of it. The few moments he does quiet down, like the big transition section between the album's two closing tracks, the riffing becomes more intricate and interesting than anywhere else on the album. Whenever a band audibly dumbs things down during the vocal sections, in any genre of metal for that matter, it kind of gets on my nerves so I feel that Creatures are in an almost constant state of doing exactly that.

If McCall learns to exercise a little more restraint, I think it would give the band's axemen a lot more room to stretch their legs. Some of the riffs on Vesuvius are really quite good, especially during the instrumental breaks, which is a songwriting limitation they really need to overcome in order to compete with bands like Black Breath or New Lows who are busy setting new standards in the marriage of hardcore and metal. In any case, the band has their aesthetic down pat. Fans of aggressive hardcore with metal inclinations, or metal fans who want to hear a solid example of effective modern metal/hardcore babymaking could do a whole hell of a lot worse than Creatures. That said, newcomers to the band might do better starting with their somewhat better first album, I, Lucifer.