Release DetailsLABEL Victory
RELEASED ON 4/4/2006
Dead To Fall
The Phoenix Throne
posted on 5/2006 By:
This is not the huge step up in quality Villainy And Virtue was over their debut but Phoenix Throne finds them cementing their gains in the form of even better musicianship and a thick but sharp guitar tone that still carries over a healthy dose of sludge from previous records. And the drums…after sounding like a low end Casio on the first record and not a ton better on the last one they finally get the treatment they deserve…thick and upfront in the mix. And just in case you didn’t notice they stuck a big rap bass boom on the first track to make sure you do.
Like their last effort, this is another conscious attempt at distancing themselves from their more implicit metalcore beginnings by wading deeper into melodeath territory while continuing to ease off the traditional breakdowns. Not to say they’ve abandoned them as almost every song has some form of a breakdown but, instead of always keeping the guitars chugging in lockstep with the kick drum, they open them up from time to time with some interesting lead work which makes for a different twist on this tried and true formula. This penchant for letting the guitars run fast and loose, particularly with short, discordant ascending/descending lead guitar work during slower passages, crops up repeatedly throughout this album creating some interesting, if not always catchy, moments.
This band definitely comes across strongest when they are firing on all cylinders. Songs like the opener “All My Heroes Have Failed Me” and “Doomed To Failure” highlight the strengths of this Darkest Hour meets metalcore songwriting style by contrasting brute speed with slow, calculated breakdowns. Each has the characteristic speedy twin lead guitar work that, like a snarling pit bull, gets brought to heel by the slow burn of barely constrained breakdowns that plod forward with muscular, meticulous precision. As strong as these songs are the most interesting has to be the closer. This song follows a similar style but halfway through they try and fully assume a Euro metal mantle with a passage full of keyboards and Gregorian chanting. Rather than sounding hackneyed, it comes across as another interesting dimension that could be more fully incorporated in future releases.
While their approach works exceptionally well at fast to moderate speeds, it gets a bit tedious when they slow it down as they do on several of the songs. The acoustic interludes that graced their last record have been replaced by a handful of slow chuggers that, despite some decent guitar wankery mentioned above, offer only marginal improvement over their acoustic brethren. Whereas you would perpetually skip the acoustic numbers after the very first time you heard them (or better yet never burn them in the first place), you can give these a few listens before they bore you senseless. Tragically this style of songwriting creeps into sections of other songs far too often. This means the start to finish barn burners are few and far between. Instead the momentum they build is constantly squandered part way through a song causing them to have to start from scratch again and again. This is a bit frustrating and is really the Achilles heel of an otherwise solid record.
Anyone who enjoyed their last record will certainly enjoy this effort as their style has really seemed to gel here. Despite this, it’s a bit of a retreat from the grab-you-by-the-shirt urgency of the best songs on Villainy And Virtue but still manages to please with a beefy production and interesting explorations into the merging of Gothenburg tinged metal with tasteful metalcore leanings.
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