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The Embers of Man - 90%

Roswell47, November 8th, 2011

With seemingly thousands of brutal death metal albums released each year, it can get discouraging trying to pick through the haystack of shitty bands to find the few releases that are truly worth your time. Usually, having a well-known member within a band's ranks will help draw enough attention to a group to at least warrant a brief listen. Minnesota's Face of Oblivion features former Origin vocalist James Lee on the mic. This will likely be the factor that will attract curious listeners to Face of Oblivion, but it's the songs on the band's debut, The Embers of Man, that will turn the curious into converts.

As one might expect, The Embers of Man is a brutal and intense affair, and it shares a few similarities with Origin besides Lee's trademark vocals. There are several instances where the guitars use sweep-picking as the basis of riffs rather than as parts of a solo. This happens most prominently within the controlled chaos of "Undesigned." Face of Oblivion's songs are also very technical, yet highly memorable much like recent Origin albums. However, that's where the similarities end. Face of Oblivion can be a little more reserved as far as the technical flash is concerned. The band focuses more on the songs than showing off skills. The production and performances on The Embers of Man also have a slightly more loose, human feel. At times, this is an asset that keeps the album from sounding too cold and processed. Yet, it can also make the album seem slightly under-produced during certain fleeting moments when the guitars or bass drums are more isolated. During these moments, the guitar tone could use some more beef, and the triggered bass drum can sound a little too thin. This is basically just nitpicking though. Most of the time it isn't even noticeable, especially if the whole band is playing. Overall, the production is quite solid, and it never prevents the strength of the songs from easily showing through.

The balance between the technical and the catchy parts is really where The Embers of Man succeeds. The songs emphasize memorable grooves that are hard to forget and are seasoned with blazing technicality at various intervals. Songs like "Dead to Me" and "Undesigned" feature stunning guitar / bass interplay. "Panacea," "Lecherous Indignities," and "Perpetuity" all utilize dissonance to great effect. Album closer "The Embers of Man" even briefly drifts into over-the-top spastic Braindrill territory. However, Face of Oblivion never forgets the song. That's what makes The Embers of Man such a strong album.

As people get to know Face of Oblivion's The Embers of Man, the band will cease being "that new group with James Lee" and become known as a powerful force in its own right. This album really has something for everyone who is into the genre: technicality, grooves, and catchiness. So does Face of Oblivion stand head and shoulders above the crowd of brutal death metal bands? Maybe not yet, but the band sure is close. Do yourself a favor, and check out this release. The Embers of Man is quickly becoming one of my favorite albums of the year.

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