posted on 11/2005 By:
Calico System are a metalcore band. Big whoop. Now, I could go off on yet another exacerbated tangent about the current proliferation of metalcore, the clear oversaturation of the genre, the bands causing said oversaturation and their widespread mediocrity, and et cetera, but what the hell is the point at this juncture? As far as I’m concerned, metalcore is now just another of metal’s myriad subgenres, and sure a lot of the bands are redundant, but isn’t that the case for the majority of acts in most metal niches? Point is, I suppose, that everyone needs to get used to the fact of this shit’s existence, because it’s clearly in for the long haul, and its incidence of musical quality is just as high as that of any metal style. Anyway, on to the review.
They Live is the second full-length effort from this St. Louis act, and like their preceding effort, this album is driven almost exclusively by melodies and choruses, rather than breakdown-slinging brutality. Calico System have few pretenses to any sort of overwhelming aggression; their frequent vocal hooks and persistently catchy riffing have about as much melodic bubblegum appeal as the most recent Killswitch Engage record or, conversely, the average power metal album. The band culls just as heavily from AFI’s The Art of Drowning-era gothic punk and Thrice’s catholic fusioncore as they do from more metal-friendly burly chugga acts, and thus likely won’t appeal too greatly to the average MR reader. Vocalist Mark Owens’ clean voice in particular will likely drive metalheads to distraction. It’s exceedingly clean, emotive, high-register, and frequently spiced up with sugary harmonies; in other words, it sounds like MTV2, maaan.
What they’re missing is the fact that Calico System, despite their essentially nonexistent creativity index, execute this style just as well as any of their black-nail-painted peers. Opener “They Live” bursts through the gates with stompy hardcore aggression that opens up into a combination of Gothenburg chop and soaring vocal hook, which in turn gives way to a brief but very metal tapped solo before reverting back to the hook and locking the whole thing down with an efficient (if commercial) breakdown. “Venomous Lipstick,” conversely, emphasizes their poppier leanings, lacing fragile vocal harmonies into the infectious chorus and dropping into an extraordinarily Davy Havok-esque “whoa whoa whoa” handclap segment. There isn’t a ballad to be had here, and the closest the band comes to any sort of blatantly saleable restraint is “Eva Brown,” which also happens to feature one of the album’s heaviest and most discordant chug sections. Similarly, there’s not a song on They Live that doesn’t mix in Owens’ scream as well as it does his pristine melodies; Calico System have produced a fairly even blend of testosterone harshness and crystalline, gorgeously-polished radio viability.
This accessible, pluralist approach to metalcore holds no great appeal for me, and likewise this shit will likely irritate more of the MetalReview readership than it pleases. It’s something of a shame; Calico System’s solid songwriting and competent musicianship are evident even to a non-fan like myself. For those few of you out there who enjoy the likes of Chiodos, Evergreen Terrace, and the aforementioned Thrice, give these dudes a shot.
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