Released: 2012, Sumerian Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
I used to think that The Faceless was a fitting name for a band that sounded like they were trying to sonically buzzsaw your features off. Now after mass member changes, particularly in the last half a decade, I’m wondering if it’s not become more appropriate because it’s hard to keep track of who anyone is.
Take Autotheism the album I am reviewing (yes I’m getting there!) - in the four years since previous release Planetary Duality the growler, guitarist, and bassist were replaced, and even since the album release itself in mid-2012 there’s now a new drummer behind the kit. I’m sure this is no more musical chairs than their peers but it sure feels like it.
Anyway with two well received releases behind them, The Faceless are not quite so anonymous anymore. With many fans waiting impatiently for its release Autotheism would have had to be pretty close to godlike to live up to expectations. Me... I’d maybe give it the position of disciple but hey that’s better than God’s teaboy.
It’s a far more thoughtful album to my ears - whilst the others were like a full scale attack, this is the one that sneaks around back and infiltrates without you knowing. Yes I hate to use the phrase ‘grower’ (can someone run the shower please) but Autotheism needs repeat listens because first time around you’re too busy wondering where all the clean vocals came from, and the orchestra, and the sax, and... yeah. Well they call them progressive.
If you were expecting a death-tech salvo you may have mentally stumbled when ‘Create’s’ dramatic opening gives way to the sound of Michael Keene singing for the spotlight. It’s the clean vocals that take centre stage throughout the album but as ‘Create’ demonstrates these actually work well against the harsher throat scrapings.
The song then blends seamlessly into ‘Emancipate’ and ‘Deconsecrate’, which see The Faceless using all their speed and technicality to create backdrops that are more expansive and sombre than before. The solos still strip ribbons - but this time off your soul rather than your body - whilst the hooks are softer and more melodic in their making.
In a way I actually found the clean vocals made it easier to identify with the different layers of the music - whereas the heavy growls pervade an air of urgency, the clean parts slow the thought processes down to a more contemplative level - but they are a bit too prevalent. There’s still some of that let-me-hold-that-for-you heaviness though, such as on ‘Ten Billion Years’ with its industrial forged-in-iron opening and altered vocals, and ‘The Eidolon Reality’, which doesn’t let up on the whip once, but it’s on prog’s terms now.
Which reminds me - when did everyone start feeling they had to shoehorn non-musical snippets into everything? If I wanted to hear a baby crying its way around an evil carousel with Stephen Hawking providing the narration I’d check into a nightmare. I’m not saying there is anything at all wrong with these kinds of additional sounds being used to great effect but that’s not always the case. It’s a bit like building an amazing house and then furnishing it with stickers - it feels flat.
Above all else though what I took away from Autotheism was a sense that this was being driven by the hand of one man. And by that I mean Keene, not God. It feels less like a group composition and more a semi-indulgent vision, and on that basis the name The Faceless takes on another meaning entirely. Still put on a brave one guys.
Review by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs