Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN - 10/12
Written by: AP on 31/10/2012 18:21:06
Ever since the release of "Akeldama" in 2006, the Encino, CA based bruisers known collectively as The Faceless have set two things in stone. One - they are impeccably talented musicians; and two - they loathe pigeon holing and restraining themselves to please the masses. One might have expected the band to do exactly that, given the critical acclaim that met 2008's "Planetary Duality", but instead of continuing to forge sci-fi infused technical death metal on this third outing, titled "Autotheism", The Faceless shun our expectations once again with an album that sees the band venture even further from their roots, beaming with ambition.
Following the dramatic, foreboding string orchestration in the beginning of "Autotheist Movement I: Create", the song begs to progress into a salvo of blastbeats and shredding in the vein of the previous album. But it doesn't. Instead, it gradually evolves into an expansive prog metal piece which lays bare the band's Opeth and Dream Theater influences, and features exclusively clean singing by the band's multi-talented frontman Michael Keene. His contributions are likely to be the decisive factor when you assess "Autotheism" against its predecessors and your taste, so let's just put it bluntly: approximately one half of the vocals on this album reside in clean territory, and the singing of guitarist Michael Keene is absolutely not on par with that of Mikael Åkerfeldt. It's the sort of staple prog metal voice that does the job without impressing anyone. But if you're willing to accept this as only a minor pitfall, there are plenty of rewards to be enjoyed in other aspects of the album.
The aforementioned introductory track is the first pillar of a trifecta of thematically and melodically tied songs titled "Autotheist Movement" that, with the exception of some oddly timed transitions, feature some of the best music this album has to offer. "Autotheist Movement II: Emancipate" should please the death metal inclined fans with its brutal pummel - initially, at least - while "Autotheist Movement III: Deconsecrate" gradually restores the speed, tone and melody established in "Autotheist Movement I: Create", and adds a couple of quirky interludes with church organ and la-la-la chanting that recall Between the Buried and Me in some of their most ecclectic moments. There are plenty of other parallels to BTBAM to be drawn as well, not least because the skill of musicianship on display here is certainly up to par with them.
But while the organic style of the abundant arpeggio leads and solos suggests much time has been spent studying the art of that band, The Faceless are experienced enough by now to have found their own distinct sound. That sound finds identity in the dramatic backdrop of orchestral samples, distressed baby-cries, computer generated speech and mechanical noises - an eerie sci-fi atmosphere you will recall was also the central element on the band's previous album "Planetary Duality". Here though, the thematic focus is on the blasphemous worship of one's self - a topic The Faceless approach with arrogant confidence and vividity; "All rise for the black mass / We are gathered here today in the funeral of your faith / Angels set ablaze / Bask in the flames / God is dead! / Rid your mind of guilt, my child / God is dead! / Let your sacrament wilt, my child" in "Autotheist Movement III: Deconsecrate" is but one of countless denouncements of religion that the album offers.
So at the very least it must be said that the album is full-fledged. It keeps to a central theme and on it The Faceless showcase a sound that is unmistakably theirs. But while the three songs mentioned above together make for an impressive display of progressive death metal, the rest of the album fails to deliver as consistently. "Accelerated Evolution", a groovy Psycroptic style track that provides another early highlight; "In Solitude", a brief blast of technical grind; and "In Solitude", another progressive behemoth to round the album off, are all fine songs, but with an opening trio as strong as is the case here, it was always going to be difficult to keep the momentum going. As a result, "Autotheism" as a whole comes across as somewhat inconsistent - a shame considering the amount of talent underlying.
"Autotheism" might not be as breathtaking a record as "Planetary Duality", but fans of technical death and progressive metal are still likely to lose their minds about Evan Brewer's skill on bass guitar, not to mention the consistently bewildering guitar histrionics of Michael Keene and Wes Hauch.
Download: Autotheist Movement I: Create, Autotheist Movement II: Emancipate, Autotheist Movement III: Deconsecrate,
For the fans of: Becoming the Archetype, Cynic, Opeth, Psycroptic
Release date 14.08.2012