Saturday, 25 February 2012
A Review - Rise to Remain - City of Vultures.
In my previous post, I briefly mentioned my respect for this band. Of the material I'd heard at the time from the band's 'Bridges Will Burn' EP, and from their mind-blowing performance on the Defenders of the Faith III tour (which I will again mention that, if you missed it, you missed a right treat), I could tell that they were a band with a shining talent. Now that I've got a copy of the band's first album 'City of Vultures', I can confirm that I certainly wasn't wrong. I didn't quite realise though, just how talented these young British lads are.
Right from the word go, and album opener 'The Serpent', you can hear that this band is just a little bit different and, boy, are they on a mission. Although it is by far the most aggressive track on the album, 'The Serpent' is still technical, with some energetic shredding and some intricate sweep passages that blow the proverbial mind, plus some superb screaming on Austin's part (some of which I'd describe as nearly Rob Flynn-ish in style). In addition to this the album as a whole holds some spectacular musicianship.
This is particularly prominent on songs such as title track 'City of Vultures' and 'Illusions', with some awe-inspiring technical, and yet also somehow still melodic, guitar solos and sensational riffage from lead guitarist Ben Tovey throughout. I don't know how he's done it, but I'm going to assume through witchcraft.
Even though they've re-released 'Bridges Will Burn' and 'Nothing Left', both songs have remained fun to listen to, and although I may not be as keen on them as the much more raw originals, both songs are both bewilderingly good, with some new little flourishes even added here and there, as well as a much cleaner production sound.
Austin's voice (albeit, even I will admit, was a bit auto-tuned - a slight dampener on an otherwise sterling album) is excellent throughout, with some dominant, powerful screaming, (which you can actually understand, and actually sounds good, both at the same time - a thing many bands within this style seem to struggle with a lot), and catchy, cohesive clean vocals, with a very noticeable style which can be identified as his own. In other words, his voice is distinctive; he doesn't sound like every other singer in the style (Of Mice and Men and Attack! Attack! could learn a thing or two here). All of this adds up to a very nice change which can't help but put a big grin on your face.
What's more, the lyrics for the songs aren't exactly your average, cliched and obvious lyrics. No, the band actually have used intellectual lyrics - a rare trait for young metalcore bands to have these days. Songs such as 'God Can Bleed' and 'Power Through Fear' both reflect a genuine look into the behaviours of both religion and humanity respectively, and, what's more, do so in an intelligent manner, with lyrics such as 'I'm the Devil turning glass into sand', which invoke actual cognitive thoughts about their underlying meanings, and will have involved genuine thought being put into them, not just some arrogant half wit attempting a cheap metaphor for sex.
'Roads' and 'Talking in Whispers' are both catchy and well written, again with some philosophical lyrics thrown into the mix. 'Roads' is probably the lightest song on the album, but it is still hardly a 'ballad' with an excellent little sweep passage and a couple of quite soulful solos to boot, in addition to an almighty chorus which is both dramatic and emotive, as well as catchy, and a very climatic, emotional ending. It is also probably the song which fits the metalcore style the most, but not in a way that makes you want to tear your own ears out from exasperation and frustration, because it does still have unique qualities to it.
That's what I don't understand about this band - how have they managed to achieve such thorough success from lyrics that are so sophisticated, and yet managed to keep it catchy? Normally you have to sacrifice one for the other, but the band have managed to pull it off with aplomb. Additionally, each song sounds unique on the entire album, although all are distinctly metalcore, they all have tell tale elements of other genres and bands, such as Lamb of God, as well as perhaps old school Slayer, Evile and elements of even Trivium and BFMV (y'know, before they turned to wimpy one-trick ponies with the creative force of as a child owning a pet rock and then dubbing said rock, 'Mr. Rock').
As for the music in of itself, it is definitely metalcore, but with one crucial difference; there is only one breakdown on the entire album (on 'The Serpent'). That's it. They have instead used guitar solos and techniques which require effort and skill to fill in non-vocal passages, and I have to say, with no shadow of a doubt, that it is a welcome change. In a world where metalcore relies far too heavily on breakdowns, and songs are slowly becoming more and more breakdown, and less and less actual songs, RTR are a breath of fresh, breakdown-free air.
Breakdowns are, in essence, dull, monotonous and as predictable as a blonde believing that toasters toast actual toast. Or that penguins can fly. They serve as a replacement for any technique in the history of music which need a single ounce of talent. Gallops, soulful solos, technical solos, shredding, the list goes on and on for techniques metalcore bands are too lazy to even attempt, instead opting to fill our heads with their pitiful droning for about 5 minutes, or at least until they've worked out something else they can put in afterwards. Usually to be followed by yet another, longer breakdown.
Furthermore RTR's use of actual, real solos and such, rather than conventional breakdowns, signals to me a band that wants to evolve, and doesn't want to just be 'another metalcore band'. They want success, they want to be different, they want to be remembered.They stand out, just from learning to play their instruments properly, and from hard work actually being put into the songs themselves.
If they continue the way they've started, I can see some big things happening in this little British band's future. Unlike many bands within the scene, who will fade away as soon as the next scene fires up, Rise to Remain will continue to be relevant, and will propel themselves to much loftier heights. I couldn't care any less that Austin is Bruce Dickinson's son, he, as well as the rest of the band, have all done this on their own, through sheer talent and the ability to write interesting, yet catchy and melodic songs, which will leave you singing for many days to come. Although, I have to say, if I was Bruce, I couldn't be any more proud.