First Came The Law
posted on 3/2008 By:
I spilled my head a couple of reviews ago. Now it's time for.... fun with structure in writing. Let's see how this goes.
First up, production. Proper. Typical, but I don't mean that in a negative way. The sound overall on First Came The Law is very standard issue new-metalcore. Layered guitars, rightfully so, to get into the thick of the crunch. Your stock moshy breakdown passage is typically made up of all staccato palm-muting, to at least fifty percent of the time, and when you're trying to get the kids in trouble, recording guitars on top of guitars on top of more guitars will summon up a devil's advocate. You'll find that Once Nothing take cues from that playbook here. The drums have that bass drum click, tom-tom bite, and crispy snare that you've heard time and time again, but can still get the job done if said crew has the chops to take it, and then pummel and bludgeon with it. The vocals are, well, there. They're present. They showed up to the recording session, and spewed forth guttural sewage, toneless screaming, and the occasional clean, all very dry in the mix. There are no effects. All in all, the recording is a tightly wrapped package waiting to be re-gifted.
Second up, is songwriting. This is where I've got some explaining to do. Personal historical facts are in order to shield me from the fans on the front lines that are sure to come out blazing when I tear into this. To sum it up, I spent 1986 through 1989 skateboarding and spray-painting trains to Cryptic Slaughter's Convicted and Run DMC's Raising Hell, not necessarily respectively, and raising eyebrows at how furious, and yet how biblical, bands like Believer, Vengeance Rising, and Deliverance could be. So I come from a blender on high of genre cross-pollination, and keep a blind eye to the fine lines that separate religious beliefs in music. And seeing as how ON are signed to a record label with religious overtones (in that I'm assuming there was some prerequisite necessary for them to call Solid State "home"), and that their music attempts crossover appeal, I think that the "closed-minded" and "god" cards are better left unplayed when i say that ON have got a mess on their hands. It seems that they've gone and Blue Oyster Culted all over their Bury Your Dead albums and didn't clean it up. It's a simple case of new-metal trying its damnedest to find a gimmick and then forcing it until it sounds forced. They've tagged this mutt "blue collar metal". It costs only a dime for a dozen, and comes with a complimentary trial size container of stale southern air, that ends up sounding more like a turn for the worst toward Six Feet Under territory, with a fever, who's only prescription is "more cowbell" (check "Avoid Me Like The Plague"), rather than the more deeply rooted yee-ha swing affairs of traditional rock'n'roll Americana, whose bastardized versions turn up in the songwriting of bands like He Is Legend and Maylene & the Sons of Disaster. Granted, this here is a more scathing attempt at this mash-up, but leaves me feeling that if they only held their ground on the 70% mosh-pit kung foolery of this album, instead of turning on a dime into territory that feels unconvincing, they would have on their hands a solid beatdown of a record. I found the proof of that theory alive and well in the song "Juliet Or What's Left of Her", where the Thin Lizzy-isms are vanquished, and they let their fury flag fly for four minutes and twenty five seconds while they stretch out their melodic, Gothenburg worshipping, picking hands and just do what they do best with no awkward and uncomfortable left turns. It's really good. It's a standout track. The closer, "And Then Came Grace", also shows a truly unexpected strong point when a fragile and somber piano riff loops and builds itself up into a sonic blanket that sets a slower pace and exudes a rarely seen affection for an Isis train of thought. It's brilliant, sends shivers.
Third comes the musicianship. Skill level at its best and shining when, surprise, they get up off their high horses and get down to business. Everything is in the pocket when they lay down the law in tracks like the aforementioned "Juliet or What's Left of Her", where the gimmicks are ghosts and the jugular veins get fleshed out, but for the 58 minute ride that is this album, the guitarists could stand to be a little less oblivious to the bi-polar disorder/Tourette's syndrome style of songwriting. Maybe play off of its inconsistencies instead of laying vulnerable to them. I've gotta make a side note here that the drummer stands a head above his peers. He can break out of the box with an unconventional attack. There's a highlight that is the intro to "All My Heroes Are Cowboys" and it sticks out like a spur on a gym shoe. Check it. There's a fluidity to his style that warrants more attention, as opposed to the vocal attack that warrants less. The singer can flip the switch from a clean vocal to a dirty one in the same unflattering manner that the whole crew switches genres at any given point, and it seems to exist for the sole purpose of defying classification and not so much in regards to building a good song. Oh yeah, and when you get to the fifth track, try to take a huge step onto track seven, or else you're gonna have to go hose a ballad off the bottom of your shoe. Nothing against ballads, I just wish that people would pick up after their albums so these kids don't have to step in any bad music when they're out runnin' around.
So, wow, that kinda works. Somebody stop me before I use this review template for an album I thoroughly enjoy and REALLY go on an odd-rambling tangent. Scary. Anyway, if First Came The Law, then second comes this disc among many others while on shuffle play.
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