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Nostalgia Isn't Enough - 58%

TheStormIRide, June 13th, 2018

Nearly twenty years after it's release, it's time to revisit Prayer for Cleansing's lone full length album, The Rain in Endless Fall. The band was active during the late '90s, early '00s metalcore explosion in the US, hailing from the surprising wellspring of North Carolina, which also brought us the likes of Bloodjinn, Azazel, and Sennacherib. The album was released in 1999 through Tribunal Records, and has the distinction of being that label's first release.

Before we even delve into what Prayer for Cleansing was doing here, let's clear the air and mention that three of the five members of the band at the time of this release went on to form Between the Buried and Me. That being said, aside from a bit of technical flair in the riffing and a bit of almost-but-not-really progressive tendencies in some of the structuring, this doesn't sound a whole lot like Between the Buried and Me, which should automatically give the album a few extra points. Moving on to The Rain in Endless Fall, it was one of those albums that seemed to have a huge impact on the scene when it was released. Sure, there were a ton of metalcore bands doing the whole Slayer meets Gothenburg melodic death metal bolstered by literal shit tons of breakdowns at the time: actually, I'm pretty sure that's what just about every metalcore band was trying to do at the time. But that's what made Prayer for Cleansing stand out from the pack. They had this huge (HUGE) emphasis on melding the sounds of arpeggio-laden melodic lead guitar work with Slayer-isms, and were able to pull off something that was more melodic than everyone else, yet still quite heavy in its approach. Seriously, just put this up against what other now-popular metalcore bands were doing around the same time. Killswitch Engage was still wet behind the ears, Shadows Fall was more focused on punchy, melodic death metal, Underoath was busy praising Jesus and playing shitty groovecore, and Chimaira was still in their nu-metal phase.

So basically, Prayer for Cleansing offered that lead-driven metalcore that all the scene kids wanted at the time. I can still remember when this was first released and all the metalcore kids went batshit crazy over “Sonnet”, with its rangy, over-the-top noodly guitar intro and tendency to dive into hokey, open string breakdowns. That opening riff, which is repeated towards the end of the song sounds just like what every metalcore guitarist wanted to be able to play in 1999; basically sounding like a more noodly Slayer riff. The rest of the album plays through in a remarkably similar fashion; fast Gothenburg-tinged riff, breakdown, repeat noodly Gothinburg riff, breakdown, end song. The bass is OK, basically bolstering the chugs with nothing too wild, even though the mix all but drowns it out in most places, while the percussion is done in that solid, crash-heavy hardcore style with a a tendency to run away on the double bass when things speed up. The vocals are a bit one dimensional, with that typical '90s metalcore growl, though I must point out the laughably terrible clean vocals during “Feinbhas a Ghabhail” which sound more forced than a toddler having to apologize for sticking gum in their sibling's hair.

All the scene kids ate this shit up when it first came out. It offered something fairly unique in a scene that was just about to explode. Therein lies the problem; nearly two decades of bands taking this sound and contorting it towards their own purposes. Listening through the album invokes a bit of nostalgia for the days when this sounded so over-the-top and fresh, but my jaded ears hear how dated and pedestrian this sounds now. One must certainly give credit to Prayer for Cleansing for bringing metalcore onto a new level, but the years have certainly not been kind to the recording. The breakdowns are simplistic, even by the standards of normal breakdowns, which are simplistic to begin with, and the band's riffing approach sounds tired. Even the production sounds faded and lacks any punch. If this were to be released now, it would probably get shoved to the bottom of the pile despite having solid performances. So, basically, this once important piece of metalcore history has really lost its place among the stars and serves only a piece of nostalgia.