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Malevolent metalcore masterpiece - 85%

Zodijackyl, October 11th, 2012

On Broken Wings have been on Metal Archives for ten years without a single review - you're treading new territory, exploring new grounds, and now you will be choosing your own adventure! Follow the story and skip to a new section when prompted!

Do you like breakdowns?
-If yes, go to #A.
-If not, go to #G.

Excellent choice, but I'm going to need to clarify. Do you just like breakdowns and wish that music was just breakdowns, or do you like bands that write diverse songs that highlight breakdowns?

If you only like breakdowns, go to #B.
If you like songs that highlight breakdowns, go to #C.

These guys have a lot more than breakdowns. Even if your favorite band is Chelsea Grin or Emmure, you should have a healthy respect for these guys who helped pioneer a style that is primarily conducive to moshing. If you don't like those bands and are just reading through, first stop ruining the fun of this review, then remind yourself that these guys don't sound like a deathcore band. Either way, continue to #C.

This is aggressive, old-school New England metalcore that constantly carries energy with 90s hardcore riffing that borders on a crusty and thrashy feeling at times, but it also has a surge of death metal through it, with tremolo riffs and a dark sound about it. OBW come from a generation heavily influenced by the metallic style of Ohio bands like Integrity, Ringworm, and Pale Creation, while still sounding like a descendant of northeastern hardcore. Dissonant death metal permeates their brand of metalcore, giving it nearly every sort of edge that you can imagine. This recording has a dead, death-metal practice room feel with a nod to the atmosphere of Integrity's works. Sound good?

If that doesn't sound good and you want breakdowns and slams and more brutal shit, head down to #H.
If that doesn't sound good because this really isn't the type of music you thought it would be, go to #K.
If it sounds good, skip over to #E.

You won't be directed to this option by the story, it's here to disrupt you if you're reading straight through rather than having fun with this format. If your arms are crossed while reading this, loosen up or head down to #K.

Damn straight it sounds good. There's a very pleasant balance in the songs, in each song and across the album as a whole, that fits them very well. The first two songs are really aggressive, the next two let up and allow for some singing, while still staging for breakdowns. The last track lightens up and fades out with slightly strained singing that still contains some tension, but offers a resolution to the aggression of the album.

The structures of the songs themselves demonstrate capable songwriting as one of the band's greatest assets. There are a lot of bands that could throw together similar parts like this, but OBW have a talent for thrusting songs ahead with aggressive sections, pulling you through with odd and dissonant hooks, and settings up breakdowns perfectly.

I'll use the third track, "More Than Life", as an example. The first section is aggressive, the second is melodic while being a bit rough, and it continues a step further than you think it would, mixing the clean vocals into the screams and ripping away on guitar. Once this section starts to feel like a transition back to the melody is coming, a breakdown follows, then vocals accompany the breakdown, it continues through one more section as a breakdown/groove that begins to let up, then finally returns to the second melodic verse through the end of the song. Hinting at familiar forms in songwriting (i.e. verse/chorus/verse/chorus) while twisting them around makes for an interesting and somewhat uneasy feeling to the songs.

This uneasy feeling of the music and the slightly skewed song structures is a standout trait that helps usher in the band's signature feeling of hostility. It's not brutality by breakdowns, it's the music as a whole that makes this band what it is. None of that "waiting for the breakdown/solo" bullshit, this is why On Broken Wings are known as one of the best moshcore bands.

Yeah, moshcore.
If you're alright with the idea of moshcore, continue to #F.
If you're not alright with the idea of moshcore, you've come a long way. Continue to #F anyway and consider not going to an OBW show if there's nowhere to hide.

Moshcore? Don't think it's all chugging and shouting, breakdown after breakdown. I already clarified that it isn't. It's different than the positive brutality of brothers that their brothers in Hatebreed play as moshcore - similar result I suppose, but by different means. OBW are continually aggressive, energetic, and weave a dissonant unease throughout everything they do that makes it feel inappropriate to stand still while it plays. Even when they break into the occasional melodic chorus, there's an impending feeling that it is all going to crash down. Not quite the same as the feeling of Converge's "Jane Doe" - which makes you feel as if the world is collapsing around you and there is nothing you can do about it. In this case, the world around you is collapsing and the only thing you can do to maintain stability is to shove everything within an arm's length.

The band is renowned for this reputation. The Acacia Strain announced them as an opener for a string of CD release parties for "Continent". While OBW were billed as direct support for the Poughkeepsie show, the venue's management heard, from another local venue, of their reputation for being conducive to violent crowd response and they were taken off the show shortly before it happened. On Broken Wings are so fucking brutal that they're banned from Poughkeepsie. That's quite impressive when you consider that the city is pretty much the second most apocalyptic part of Detroit, transplanted to the east coast.

Skip down to #L, the last one. Everything between here and there is for the neasayers.

You don't like breakdowns? Why the hell are you listening to a metalcore album? There are also aggressive, screamed verses that and some catchy melodic choruses, what else did you expect.
-If you like both of those, go to #I.
-If you only like the aggressive, screamed verses, go to #J.
-If you only like the catchy, melodic choruses, then you're going to be disappointed as the singing is fairly amateur and the album is mostly aggressive screaming and breakdowns. Proceed to the next option.
-If you don't really like either of those, go to #K.

Kids these days, all they want is breakdowns, dumb-looking flipped-over hairstyles, and t-shirts down to their knees. Have you considered that deathcore evolved from metalcore because a bunch of teenagers wanted more breakdowns without getting their asses kicked by the jacked, bald guys in their 30s who don't like their monkey-see, monkey-do impression of moshing? OBW are aggressive but unrefined, hardly polished in a studio, and if you need your breakdowns force-fed, then your adventure ends here.

I'm glad to hear that you like what this band does. There's not a lot of singing as it's usually an interlude to the constant aggression that the band throws around well, but it's a great throwback when it does come along. The clean vocals come along as often as Jacob Bannon lets the other guys in Converge sing backup. You're familiar with Converge, right?

If you understood the Converge reference, go to #C.
If you don't know who Converge are or aren't familiar with them, may I remind you that this band isn't on the radio-friendly side of Massachusetts metalcore? The only time they flip a kill switch is when there's about to be a breakdown. Yeah, you're going to have to listen to a bunch of breakdowns. If you're not OK with that, you can always proceed to #K, but if that's cool, you can head back up to #C.

There's only a few sections with melodic vocals, you might actually like them. "Hell or High Water" has a few lines sung leading up to a breakdown, a few other tracks sparsely use the clean vocals that might remind you of a 90s punk singer trying to add some melody ot the mix. Not much to worry about. Continue to #C.

You're looking awfully out of place listening to this, and perhaps you shouldn't be crossing your arms to cover your Burzum shirt. A large man flies out of the mosh pit and knocks you out. When you wake up, you realize that listening to OBW was a poor choice as you simply don't like this type of music.

If you have come to this option and have not heard OBW, listen to this CD. Listen to all three full-lengths plus the EP - they have an interesting way to showcasing their evolution - they re-work the song "I Do My Crosswords in Pen" for every release. Each release has a slightly different feel, and they are all conscious of being concise, so they're not too long either. This is 32 minutes of hostile hardcore at its best.