Of Malice & The Magnum Heart
Released: 2004, Ferret Music
Reviewer: Gabriel C. Zolman
“This will be the very end of silence…” (from “The Stinging Rain”)
Immediately distinctive, and unfathomably unique, this is what should be implied when one rattles on about the “next generation of Metalcore.” This is harsh, and unforgiving. It is also unrepentantly advanced, and so far beyond the trendy mallcore of the modern era, as to transcend the Hardcore tag at all. This is not the next Avenged Sevenfold; this is the next Neurosis—a pioneering statement that will, sadly, in all likelihood go unheard by all but the very adventurous, the elite among the scene.
With frequent and alternating use of keyboards, samples, and acoustic guitars, amid the swirling, chugging mass of chords and riffs—vocals either hissed out in a bitter Black Metal rasp (I’m actually reminded of an older Black/Death band called Deteriorate), or calmly spoken—this snaps back and forth with a coherence not found in the jazz-oriented Dillinger Escape Plan wannabes that flourish the scene. This actually comes together, in a way few bands of this genre ever do.
There are solos, and classic metal riffs; there are galloping chugs. There are melancholy keyboards drifting between the lines. The drumming is crisp, swift, and progressive. There are Hardcore breakdowns—though it always seems more of an afterthought than a focal point. Truly, the closest comparison one can grasp for would be Zao. Fuck innovative—it’s often just too creepy to be “Metalcore.” (It is of peculiar note that this was produced by Devin Townsend…)
The vocalist’s tendency to speak the verses now and again is more a liability than a virtue—and oddly enough, remains the band’s only conceptual link to the Hardcore scene from which they ascended. The album’s opener, “A Victim, A Target,” is positively foreboding, if not downright sinister—like the missing evolutionary link between Bloodlet and Through Silver In Blood-era Neurosis. By the time “In Response To Stars” hits you, you’re ready for anything—and that’s exactly what you get. Fans of old Today Is The Day take note.
The artistry of the LP is accentuated by its presentation: the album is book-ended by definitive introductory and closing compositions, and a contemplative centerpiece—the multi-instrumentation of “Worlds & Dreams” brings to mind Terminal Spirit Disease-era At The Gates. ”On Account Of An Absence” punches left and right with a Strife-like post-hardcore urgency, punctuated with both organic rock guitar and automated post-industrial speed-riffing. “Five Years” spits forth an unrivaled vitriol, conveyed via Euro-inspired guitar runs layered over an almost gothic-sounding template; again, this is one of the few instances where the vocals betray the band’s HC beginnings.
Metal journalists are given to hyperbole for a reason; that reason is bands like Misery Signals.