Fire From The Gods - Narrative

Nowadays, you really have to go into a metalcore album expecting the absolute standard. And maybe some days you're just in the mood for hours upon hours of the same downtuned riffs and screaming, and there's nothing wrong with that. We all have those times. Fire From The Gods is the next band that fits into that similar metalcore vibe, but their vocalist does provide a... sound for sore ears.

First and foremost though, most everything else about this band is that same old metalcore sound we're all used to. But that means we have driven riffs to jam out too. We have a big start with 'Public Enemy', riffs and rap metal vocals carrying it through to the end. The growled vocals throughout are also great if you're in a mad mood. A lot of other great instrumentals mark the album - 'In Spite Of Doubt' has a breakdown with some fantastic guitar. 'Composition' is also chock full of great instrumental elements that make it stand out. Closing track 'Into The Blue' starts uncharacteristically quiet, before becoming a confident song that takes the album to its end.

What's special about this band is vocalist AJ Turner. He's the only thing diverse about the album. To begin with, he's African American. That's not something you see a lot in metalcore, let alone in the vocals. Props to him already. That takes confidence. His vocals are incredibly vast, too. From the Avenged Sevenfold meets Beastie Boys style rapping on 'Public Enemy' to the clean vocals on 'Into The Blue' to the brutal growls on 'Lifeline', this guy can really go a lot of places with his vocals. What's really special are those harmonies in the choruses of 'Excuse Me'. There's something mechanical about his voice, almost likes it's gone through a vocoder, and under that is the low clean vocals. In between lines comes harmonies of growls that are just phenomenal. There's an almost reggae style vocal in the bridge, too, harkening back to what I can assume would be Turner's roots. There's a lot of diversity on this album as far as the vocals go.

That is what Fire From The Gods needs to capitalize on. Those big choruses full of giant harmonies; that's a sound I haven't heard before, and if I have, not in a long time. Metalcore doesn't go very far instrumental. You either evolve out of the sound or stay with the big riffs. What can be changed is the vocals, and there's a lot of hope for this band.

Favorite Tracks: Excuse Me, Composition

Least Favorite Tracks: End Transmission, Diversion, Pretenders

Rating: 62 / 100

Architects - All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us

There are two ways good metal can go: with heaviness comes brutality and jams, or with heaviness comes beauty and connectivity. In their seventh record, All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us, post-hardcore/metal outfit Architects seamlessly find the compromise of those two types of metal.

After a decade of evolution, Architects have settled on a sound that's hard to wrap your head around. It's definitely metal, but somewhere along the lines, they formed something new. The music on All Our Gods is giant, atmospheric, and crushing while still being melodic and technical. It's as hard as it is to explain as it is to comprehend. All that's clear is that it's brilliant.

There is no break on this record. It's 46 minutes of unadulterated intensity and raw emotion. This album begs for multiple listens; once through for the epic instrumentals, and a second to appreciate the lyrical work on it. Vocally, this may be Architects' best material yet. Sam Carter brings out amazing melodies in his violent screams (giving the music tastes of melodic death metal) while still finding moments in between to bring in softer moments. 'Deathwish' is perhaps the most impressive vocal and lyrical moment on the album, the chorus admitting "I know you know we’ve been living a lie… We’ve passed the point of no return… We just want to watch the world burn." Looking beyond the lyrics, you can find huge melodic screams and a sung bridge, a moment of reprieve from the blistering intensity of this unforgiving album. 'Gone With The Wind' brings in more killer vocals - the chorus melodies soar to different heights and the bridge provides a moment of consideration of the lyrics, before the powerful instrumental and giant vocals return.

More noticeably epic and groundbreaking than the vocals are the incredible instrumentals found on each song. There is not a dull moment on any track whatsoever - every note is another punch to the face and every word is taken to heart. Straight from the beginning, this becomes apparent, with opener 'Nihilist' begrudgingly opening with some of the most intense screaming found on the record, with a reprimanding and brutal instrumental to back it. Epic guitars found on 'Phantom Fear' back up the absolutely crushing outro to the song - a start-stop djent breakdown that'll send you into an abyss. The eight-minute epic conclusion to the record, 'Memento Mori' is as dark as the title and length may suggest. There's something brilliantly dark found within the guitar synth that begins the song, a seemingly unimportant moment, yet so unforgettable and demanding at the same time. What separates this song from the rest (besides the qualities that can be gathered before the song even begins) is that it highlights the electronic aspect of the album. The album's electronic backgrounds are arguably just as important as the massive guitars and double bass kicks that make up the foreground - it's like the Hybrid Theory of 2016; the album loses an entire level of power without the electronics. The entire song builds up and progresses until it reaches its gentle climax, but each section of the song has a new offering that needs careful listening for a full appreciation. It's a perfect ending to an album of this caliber.

I found the center of the album to be a level down from the beginning and end, there's a song at the core of the album that really ties it all together: 'A Match Made In Heaven'. The album seems to refuse the idea of hooks and memorable choruses in order to give it its appeal, but this song seems to tread towards the playability aspect a little more closely. The chorus is anthemic and just powerful enough to not be forgotten. The song itself sums up the album, and what makes Architects so great, in a perfect way. Raw intensity of the vocals paired with a slew of technical riffs make the song a whole different force. In an album full of unforgiving and unorthodox songs, this song ties in a more modern structure with the different elements found dispersed in songs that accompany it.

Architects set a new precedent for modern metal bands with All Our Gods. It sounds familiar, yet it's not quite like anything you've ever heard before. For those who don't like the reprimanding lyrics or technicality of the instrumentals, this may not be the album for you. But even if that's not something you can get down with, this is an album that cannot be skipped - it's an instant classic for metal. In the beauty of its crushing atmosphere and rampant riffage, part of you that begs for rebellion and desire comes out. This album, while brutal, is capturing and comes from a disposition we've all shared. Architects is like fine wine - they get better with age. They've changed the game with this record, we may not be ready for what's to come next.

Favorite Tracks: Memento Mori, A Match Made In Heaven, Deathwish, Phantom Fear

Least Favorite Track: The Empty Hourglass

Rating: 8.5/10


Top 10 Albums Of 2016 (so far):

  1. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
  2. AURORA - All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend
  3. Panic! At The Disco - Death Of A Bachelor
  4. Deftones - Gore
  5. Dream Theater - The Astonishing
  6. Foxes - All I Need
  7. Daughter - Not To Disappear
  8. Thrice - To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere
  9. Architects - All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us
  10. Lacey Sturm - Life Screams

Asking Alexandria - The Black

Metalcore, and increasingly so, post-hardcore, has adopted the sound of a very distinct fanbase. As is the case with Asking Alexandria, soaring clean vocals above heavy, djent-core guitars following heavy, near-death metal growls define a good portion of their music. The Black follows that suit, but with more grace and a lot more color (despite the record’s title). Unfortunately, with several songs following suit of that very description, this record won’t be taking off with flying colors.

Asking Alexandria tried especially hard to be as edgy and relatable to their fanbase as possible, which, in retrospect, is a good idea. However, if you don’t identify with that, this’ll be harder to grasp. On top of that, a lot of the tracks are almost blatant rip-offs of other bands who make that sound work for them. ‘Undivided’ has the edginess that feels like it was stolen straight from an Enter Shikari song, despite it’s admittedly catchy chorus. The title track, ‘The Black’ is basically a Bring Me The Horizon song, and in its defense, is a pretty good track. The vocals a very much Oliver Sykes during the choruses, and the dark piano and atmospheric background really elevates it. The bridge and ending of the track are fantastic, providing a short reprieve for the intensity of the song. What drags it down is the disgusting screaming on it. This song and opener ‘Let It Sleep’ have that issue - the growls comes straight out of the realm of grindcore. ‘Let It Sleep’ would probably do well as a Cattle Decapitation song. The BMTH comparisons take a cliché turn on ‘I Won’t Give In’ with the gang vocals in the background, which is funny considering that band borrowed from Thirty Seconds To Mars there. If Fall Out Boy had more guitars, the product would be ‘Send Me Home’, but this song is probably one of the best on the record, as it actually feels meaningful and uses that to elevate the song. There is some struggle with grasping meaning on this record, like ‘Sometimes It Ends’, which has just been baffling me with every listen. Is there a meaning to it? Musicianship? An inner struggle? The interludes seem to contradict the deeper message the song may have. ‘Just A Slave To Rock n’ Roll’ is probably the track that makes the least sense. The title literally offers nothing to the song, and it’s more of a bastardization of rock n’ roll, if anything. The intro to the closure track, ‘Circles By The Wolves’, feels wholly unnecessary, not that without it it would be any better, since those screams are back to close out the record. 

This album needed more moments like the song ‘Gone’, or at least the desperation and disposition of it. The song is the most stripped back one on the album, featuring only the harmonies of guitarist Ben Bruce over a sweet symphony and piano. He feels very knowing in his delivery, making the song feel actually meaningful as opposed to a lot of the other tracks. A similar moment is found during the bridge of ‘The Black’, where there’s a break from relentless guitars and instead features a tense and clean atmosphere.

Asking Alexandria’s fourth album leaves a lot to be desired. The good moments are few and far in between, while the rest of it is filled by edgy screaming and whining. Maybe there’s something I’m missing, behind all the guttural screaming, but at that point, I just don’t think I care. The band clearly isn’t incapable of fantastic material, like ‘Send Me Home’ and ‘Gone’, there just isn’t enough power in a lot of the tracks. Their next record needs more substance to surpass this one, which truly won’t have to be too great of a feat.

Favorite Tracks: Gone, Send Me Home

Least Favorite Tracks: Just A Slave To Rock n’ Roll, Sometimes It Ends

Rating: 5.5/10