As You Drown
posted on 11/2011 By:
Another band attempting to cross-pollinate deathcore and modern tech death, As You Drown pulls off this union a lot more smoothly than many bands I’ve heard. Rat King takes the chest-pounding energy of deathcore and places it in a more varied, digestible context, and the end result is a very solid outing that should satisfy anyone with a taste for this style of metal.
What stands out most about Rat King is the seamless flow of the compositions. While a lot of deathcore suffers from overly jumpy, formulaic songwriting (blast, breakdown, blast, repeat), As You Drown favors a primarily groove-oriented attack that mostly avoids unnecessary leaps in tone and tempo. There’s still plenty of blasts and intense velocity, but the focus mostly lies in the intricacy of the riffs and synchronization with the drums – a refreshing turn from this style’s common emphasis on pure speed and brutality. While the music is highly polished and technical, you get the sense that As You Drown is more interested in crafting good songs than impressing you or inspiring frantic moshing – though both of these things are likely to happen anyway.
The band’s riffing repertoire follows the expected standards for this kind of extreme metal, but again, it’s the execution and timing that really counts here. As You Drown’s smooth, Middle Eastern-tinged melodies are well written and often supplemented with subtle harmonics and palm-mutes that lend a sense of craftsmanship and catchiness to the songs. But it’s primarily the technical breakdowns that really got my attention. Rather than leave lots of open space between the chords, the band creates dense and multifaceted rhythms that are ultimately way more ferocious and interesting – the choppy mid-song break in “Slaves to the Kingdom of Fear” is titanic, as is the lumbering series of clusterfucks that constitute “The Nothing.”
As You Drown falters a bit during some of the blasting sections, however. The blastbeats themselves often don’t feel very intense, and things sound awkward when the band tries to layer a chugging riff atop a blasting undercurrent, Decapitated-style (“Rabid Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing). The vocals are similarly ineffectual. The hoarse, gruff growls and shouts are rather thin production-wise and often feel somewhat flat and lifeless atop the vibrant instrumental work. While certain moments of multi-layering and variation in tone attempt to alleviate this problem, the vocals were nevertheless an element of this album that never really clicked with me.
Stumbles aside, Rat King shows a lot of promise. There’s an emphasis on songcraft here that is absent from a lot of technical deathcore, and considering the youth of As You Drown as a band, I was impressed by the maturity and confidence in their delivery. An enjoyable head-banging exercise, and worth a shot for anyone who’s become bored with the direction this style has taken in the last couple of years.
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