Released: 2007, Earache Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
When Sacramento, California’s With Passion released their full-length debut, IN THE MIDST OF BLOODIED SOIL, in March 2005, it was a breath of fresh air. At its root was metalcore but the band tossed in some symphonic black metal influence as well as other atmospheric effects that set the album apart from the flood of bands beginning to jump on the trend. Within a few months, the vocalist, drummer, keyboardist and one guitar player all jumped ship leaving only bassist Michael Nordeen and now ex-guitarist Shaun Gier, who split in September 2006. Caught in a tough spot, former guitarist Jeffrey Morgan heard of the band problems and when his new project, Conducting From The Grave, faced similar issues, the two fragments joined together to form With Passion circa 2007 and record their sophomore release, WHAT WE SEE WHEN WE SHUT OUR EYES.
With such a radically different lineup, it comes as no surprise that the new album sounds nothing like IN THE MIDST OF BLOODIED SOIL at all. In fact, the question has to be raised as to why With Passion would even carry on under the same name considering the almost total lineup and sound reinvention but…here we are. The new album is chock full of virtuoso guitar runs and technical flash that set it miles above the rest of the bunch. Like The Human Abstract’s NOCTURNE that came out last year, Morgan and John Abernathy have really outdone themselves making an album that will appeal to technical guitar lovers. On the downside, though, new screamer Fidel Campos possesses rather generic throat-shredding vocals for the genre and with the exception of a single instrumental track, the keyboards that added a welcome depth to With Passion’s sound have been totally abolished. So by all accounts, WHAT WE SEE WHEN WE SHUT OUR EYES is a rather run-of-the-mill metalcore album whose only saving grace is some exceptional guitar work. Quite a shame considering all that this band brought to the table just two short years ago.
Cutting right to the chase with progressive influenced, neo-classical shredding that many will liken to Into Eternity, “Pale Horses Ride” is a blazing track to open the album. Tempo changes keep the listener sharp and blasts of swirling tech metal kick in briefly at the midway point. The solo is top-notch, too, showing the players have some serious chops. Along with “Vengeance In Departure” and “A Road For The Worthy,” the title track lurches along Dillinger-style with skronky fretboard runs but adds in some slower, more melodic passages, as well. “Tales of Sirens” cuts through with some frenzied double bass from Greg Donnelly and loads of pinched guitar harmonics and riffs nicked heavily from the Swedish melodic death playbook. “Encryption” sees the band go off in a heavier, slow-grinding direction at times, undoubtedly influenced from touring with Deicide and other death metal icons. The guitar runs are fast and in-your-face but still boast a few tricks. Donnelly is a drumming machine here, too, and even Campos goes beyond his standard shtick with some throaty, mid-range growls.
For all the impressive moments of guitar worship, what sinks the majority of the songs on WHAT WE SEE WHEN WE SHUT OUR EYES is their sheer length. Half of the songs surpass six and even seven minutes, which seem to be more of an outlet to show off the wheedly-deedly wankery than for any worthwhile purpose. It is as if the riffs—as good as they are—are just dropped in for no apparent reason. Fidel Campos’ one note screams get old pretty quickly, too, and by the midpoint of the album, progress to just plain annoying.
Unlike their initial inception, With Passion is no longer bringing anything new to the table with WHAT WE SEE WHEN WE SHUT OUR EYES. It’s a pity, too, because IN THE MIDST OF BLOODIED SOIL breathed some life into a genre that was already beginning to drown under its own weight. Instead, the band is left to fight for a spot at an already overcrowded banquet hosted by The Red Chord et al where there are just too many mouths to feed and the casualties are starting to pile up. The guitars are really impressive here and the production gives them plenty of room to shine but there is little else to bother checking WHAT WE SEE WHEN WE SHUT OUR EYES out for. An album whose sole draw is the guitarwork may work for someone like Zakk Wylde, Joe Satriani, etc. who are a marquee name which With Passion most certainly is not. As good as they are, it’s a safe bet that With Passion’s days are just about up, the result of an identity crisis, an unstable lineup and coming too late to the game.
KILLER KUTS: “Pale Horses Ride,” “What We See When We Shut Our Eyes,” “Tales of Sirens,” “Encryption,” “Vengeance In Departure,” “A Road For The Worthy”