Released: 2008, Solid State Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
The Showdown seems to have a bit of an identity crisis. On its 2004 debut, A CHORUS OF OBLITERATION, the band adhered to a Christian metalcore principle but just three years later, TEMPTATION COME MY WAY saw The Showdown do an about face and tread into southern-tinged metal/post-grunge waters. Just eighteen months later, the band returns with BACK BREAKER, an album that all but forgot TEMPTATION COME MY WAY ever happened and heads into another direction closer to Lamb of God-meets-Machine Head. The band has streamlined itself down to a four-piece (guitarist Travis Bailey split last year) and jumped over to Solid State Records but there seems to be no other reason apparent for another dramatic change to its sound. For what its worth, BACK BREAKER seems a bit more suited to this band’s natural style as the guitar parts really dig in with menacing leads and biting solos all over the place. Vocalist David Bunton ditches the clean vocal crooning and opts for a more aggressive mix of growls and shouts here, too, so BACK BREAKER might just be the album that cracks this band out of its shell and forges a (hopefully) permanent identity.
Right off the bat, The Showdown reveals its new approach on the monster instrumental intro, “Titanomachy - The Beginning.” Clunky songtitles aside (each track is preceded—inexplicably—by the name of a character from Greek mythology), the music on BACK BREAKER really carves out an immediate niche. Whether busting out ripping guitar leads backed with chunky grooves (“Hephaestus - The Hammer of The Gods”) or sinking into a catchy but aggressive Pantera-worthy anthem (““Prometheus - The Fires of Deliverance”), things motor along nicely. “Aries - I Am Vengeance” and “Aphrodite - The Disillusionaire” sound really close to the thrash-based modern metal of Lamb of God with big riffs and some killer drumming.
A bit of split personality disorder creeps in on “Cerberus - The Hellhound Awaits” as the southern rock of TEMPTATION COME MY WAY gets revisited with slow, sludgy guitar riffs and a much more relaxed pacing. Unfortunately, the band goes back to its generic metalcore roots on “Nemesis - Give Us This Day” and the gang-shouted chorus of “Odysseus - A Song of Hope” doesn’t do them any favors, either. It is one thing to be dynamic but the constant changes in style with this band comes off as lacking in direction and confidence in their own musical outlook. It’s not like The Showdown is busting out emo choruses and collaborating with Beyoncé (yet) but it would be nice to hear some sort of consistency from these guys from one album to the next.
BACK BREAKER finds The Showdown crossing another juncture in their musical roadtrip. After a turn on Ozzfest 2007 and a jump to a mid-level indie label for this record, the prominence of their name should certainly be on a few more tongues and rightfully so because this is a solid record. Hopefully those first exploring The Showdown will focus on this record and not the water-testing of their previous two releases because each release has really showcased a completely different band and sound. If The Showdown does find satisfaction in the style of BACK BREAKER, they should do well but if the next record takes another musical tangent, the band runs the risk of lacking any credibility whatsoever and becoming a punchline.
KILLER KUTS: “Hephaestus - The Hammer of The Gods,” “Aphrodite - The Disillusionaire,” “Prometheus - The Fires of Deliverance,” “Infernus - You Will Move”