Released: 2009, Coroner Records
Reviewer: Kyle Moore, the Metal Magnus
Metalcore is a very touchy subject for me. Mostly because I really hate it like a cat hates a lake full of starving piranhas. From all I’ve heard and seen of this inbred subgenre, metalcore mostly exists to promote moshing and the expression of excess testosterone amongst intellectually compromised males who lack any semblance of taste. Repeated exposure to top metalcore acts like Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God have done nothing but deepen my dislike. The common theme is that most metalcore bands are American in origin, and unlike the upcoming American black metal scene, a lot of vital European influence appears to have fallen on ignorant ears. So what would happen if metalcore decided to evolve a little, and incorporate some Euro-metal influences and some snazzy keyboards? The result is the Greek hybrid metalcore outfit entitled Fallen Within, and they have the honor of being the first metalcore band I (mostly) like.
My chief complaint against metalcore is how forced the riffs sound – they usually try to gnash out a rhythmic grind that locks in with the double-bass, but such artificial chunkiness is usually bereft of any melody or progression; this is where INTOXICATED mostly differs from its unevolved predecessors. Fallen Within guitarists Gio S and Billy have learned to inject some actual melodies and moods into their catchy riffing, all the while completely avoiding those godawful breakdowns that help make metalcore such a juvenile, gutter-trash genre. While the typical metalcore guitar/kick-drum-lock style of riffing is still present, these guys do it really well and don’t use it exclusively like lesser bands often do. The guitars often pull back into the mix to enable keyboardist Steven More to work some nifty melodic mojo, which goes a long way towards creating some sonic diversity in a typically barren genre. Most interesting are the evocative guitar solos, which draw a lot more from traditional metal bands than more modern shredding. Even better, there are a couple of guitar/keyboard duels a la Alexi Laiho & Janne Warman. Fallen Within’s chief European influence could be Children of Bodom, as there are passages that sound an awful lot like the famed Finnish berserkers.
Opener “Sound of Destruction” starts with an unusually good metalcore riff, but quickly transitions into an emotive, cleanly sung chorus that really breaks away from the typical metalcore sound. Vocalist Steve Al has a very pleasant clean tone, and uses it extremely effectively throughout the album. His scream is heavily processed, but to my surprise I found myself liking his sound a lot. “Pain Right Under” sounds an awful lot like a more contemporary Bodom song, but not in a copycat way. Drummer Nick G really unleashes his double-bass mastery here, with sizzling keys prodding above. The bridge on this tune incorporates a lot of technical melody, a clear break from metalcore tradition. We don’t get a weak track until “Extinction,” which is a throwback to the “unevolved,” overwrought metalcore riffing that Fallen Within had so steadfastly avoided. As a redeeming feature, the melodic passages on this track are quite interesting, again breaking away from metalcore tradition. Likewise, “Intoxication” sadly doesn’t use many interesting riffs, although a brief foray into a progressive major key during the bridge fascinated me. But it’s the outro track that really shows what Fallen Within is capable of.
While “The Great Fall” starts off a lot like another grindy Killswitch Engage song, about two minutes into this longer track, an unexpectedly melodic progression pops up with some fantastic singing by Mr. Al. An unexpected bluesy guitar solo (!) comes next, before an Opeth-style transition takes us completely outside the realm of metalcore and into uncharted realms. Suddenly in 6/4 time, Mr. Al’s quavering lamentations pull us into a style much more reminiscent of Epica and Sinergy than anything else. Some symphonic keyboard samples and an amazingly evocative guitar solo shatter any remnants of the metalcore plunking from previous tracks; Fallen Within is in some very unexplored territory here, and the experimentation yields some fantastic & mesmerizing results. If they could throw an album together that incorporated this newer, more progressive sound, I have no doubts that they could achieve wild success with such bold innovation.
Overall, I can happily recommend this album to any metalcore fans who are feeling the need to grow beyond the fallow confines of such a hyper-masculine genre. There’s so much more to metal than just aggression and slam-dancing, and Fallen Within just might be the first “bridge band” between the increasingly separate worlds of typical metalcore and the European sound.