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An Extreme Snorefest. - 30%

hells_unicorn, June 23rd, 2008

When you don’t talk about music with anyone other than a few friends with likeminded tastes, you often miss out on the latest fad in pop culture. Be it the latest celebrity drug addiction/sex scandal, talented yet hapless comedian like Mike Myers who decide to poke fun at Tibetans and get crucified in the entertainment media for violating a sacred cow of theirs, or the latest musical abortion passed off as something everybody ought to hear, it either doesn’t reach you at all, gets to you after everyone else or trickles to you in small, less offensive doses. Perhaps the fact that I haven’t really experienced much of the craze surrounding JFAC in the media or the masses explains my bored indifference to this, rather than the outright revulsion that is more commonplace amongst seasoned metal mainstays with an ear for the real thing.

Although stylistically this is not terribly similar to In Flames’ early works, it induces a similar trance-like state in me when I listen to it. The problem is that even on occasions where the music seems to be gaining momentum, it feels the need to either stagnate or mindlessly meander away into no man’s land. Some take delight in the idea of playing mix and match with differing styles of extreme metal with very little sense of continuity, much like a modern painter might dazzle audiences with works comprised of random color blotches linked together with jagged, uneven strokes, but I don’t. Any sense of transition within the overlong tracks on here manifests either in the form of abrupt changes in tempo, or complete stops followed by a single generic chug riff repeated 8 or 10 times successively before the drums finally decide to kick back in.

Part of the problem here might be that these metalcore and deathcore bands seem to be getting the idea into their heads that you can drag out an extreme, simplistic descendant of punk rock for longer than 3 minutes on every song without running out of steam and ideas. The style is built upon a limited riff base and a harsh scream voice particularly for the case of maximum brutality in small, compact doses. Carcass and Napalm Death knew what they were doing when they kept the bulk of their goregrind/grindcore material between 1 and 3 minutes long. The tediousness that results seems to force the band to resort to studio gimmicks on “What we once called home” in order to try and keep a 4 minute plus session of pointless fits, starts, and a flurry of a few dozen fragmented riff ideas from melting together with the other two almost equally directionless collections of similar ideas.

If I had to pick one track on here that most resembles a song, it would be “Dead Stale Endings”. When it’s not dropping out into 2 second free times and pointless drum fills between recycled melodeath guitar harmonies and groove riffs, there is a hint of overall cohesion, though it manifests itself in the same upper mid-tempo boredom of the latest “Bullet for my valentine” release with a manlier but equally untalented screamer at the helm. I can’t help but be reminded of the Mastodon debut every time I listen to this, although at least in this case there is a semblance of tightness in the arrangement, and the guitars are more of a moderately runny diarrhea tone, rather than the explosive mud-butt river product guising as a guitar tone on the progressive groove/sludge side of the modern US metal coin. As far as the closing track on here, it’s nothing more than a 7 minute plus version of the same format, guaranteed to put any avid death metal fan to sleep before it’s through.

Although this is an extremely boring little demo, I have to give the band credit for putting forward an independent release with a crisp production and a general avoidance of over-emphasizing one aspect of the arrangement. And although the vocal delivery on here is a pretty generic mishmash of primal shrieks, death grunts, melodeath barks and half-whispered yells, it is nowhere near as revolting and terrible as the effects drenched, phlegm steeped gibberish that manifests itself on their better known releases. Basically this demo’s greatest strength is that it sounds less terrible than what else the band claims as their own, which is obviously not an endorsement. The detractors basically have it right as far as this band and the recently invented sub-genre they fall under are concerned, if you want quality brutality from the core and death metal spectrum, it’s best to go back to the source in the late 80s goregrind scene and 90s technical metal era, starting with Carcass and Death.

Better than Doom - 70%

HexDemon666, December 9th, 2007

Ah, JFAC's first "album". Quite refreshing, really. The first thing to note is the blend of death metal with hardcore. I, for one, am a HUGE fan of good metalcore bands (Unearth, Shadows Fall, Machine Head, etc), so finding a good death metal band with those 'core influences was quite a turn-on. There are lots of breakdowns in the songs, but they're quite varied (well, as varied as breakdowns can be, anyhow). The riffs are very technical and, despite the detuned guitars, they pull off some pretty good rhythm sections that don't rely on chugga-chugga riffs or powerchord shuffles. The vocals are great. The vocalist really manages those gutteral growls and the high-pitched screaming well. Neither sound forced or uncomfortable. Too often do I hear a vocalist attempt to growl with nothing coming out but a deep scream, hardly a growl. The bass is very prominant. It doesn't necessarily stand out above the band nor does it vary much with the guitars, but it's solid and you can hear it well. The drums are okay. However, the blast-beats and double-bass the drummer lacks are sorely missed. But hey, overall, the musicians play their instruments well and the band is extremely solid. The production is also amazing for it being a demo. There are no issues with any single instrument overpowering another.

On to the songs. The album starts off with Dead Stale Endings which is a great song. Fast, thrashy, and heavy. It slows down shortly thereafter and becomes much chunkier. It's definitely the right track to start off the album. After that, we get What We Once Called Home. Another good song, but unfortunately, unlike the other two on the album, this song does not really stand out. It has a very good intro which is very fast, but other than that, the song is left wanting. Wanting what? I don't know. Maybe some better drums, maybe a more memorable guitar ensemble, or maybe just a tempo increase. It's fast already, but even faster would make this song much cooler. Not bad for a filler, though. It doesn't detract from the album, it simply fails to add much. The last song on the album, Day in Black, happens to be my favorite. Actually, it remains my favorite JFAC song to date (as of writing this review, I've not listened to anything off of Genesis, only this Demo and Doom). The intro is great. It's slow and melodic and just has an air about it. Sort of an epic sound. Then all becomes calm and the vocalist tears the song apart. His performance is superb. Then the intro riff gets a makeover, gets faster, higher pitched, and the whole song picks up before jumping into a bouncier rhythm section. Just overall a great song. Again, the only thing that's really missing is some outstanding drum fills which, sadly, aren't to be found anywhere.

With only three songs on the demo, it's hard to give a very full review since there is so little material to work with. Overall, I found this to be a great album. Honestly, despite it's briefness, I would rate it higher than Doom (as my review title suggests). Maybe it's because Doom has more filler or maybe it's because Day in Black is one of my favorite songs. The band is very solid, but there is definitely room for improvement. The bassist does get a few stand-out moments, but they could be a bit more embellished and the drummer is boring. He serves his purpose by keeping a beat, but this is death metal - we want MORE than a beat (thankfully, this is improved on in Doom). The vocalist is excellent and the guitarists are extremely tight with complex rhythms and chunky riffs.

If you're new to JFAC, check out this demo. It's really good and is probably better than most of their newer stuff. If you like JFAC, get this immediately. You'll love it. Or, if you're one of those haters, try this out. It's a demo, so you can probably find it for free download online (as I did), so it doesn't hurt to try it. I think you'll be surprised. Is it groundbreakingly different than their new stuff? No, not really. But, I think this album has much more to offer than their newer stuff. Sure it has less content, but that content is all the more spectacular. Let's just hope that Job for a Cowboy can look back on this and strive to put out more like it instead of more of the same.