Thursday, 17 November 2011

Astomatous – The Beauty of Reason (Review)

Fear Factory changed my life. As a teen, I had heard Soul of a New Machine and loved the attempts the band made at juxtaposing and cross breeding stylistic elements (new wave, techno, death metal). When Demanufacture dropped, the band’s sound had been streamlined and improved significantly. By the time Obsolete was released, much of the ferocity of the first album was lost. Obsolete is an excellent album but leans towards accessibility far more than its predecessors. Finally, with Digimortal the band demonstrated their ability to pick up and interpret the nu-metal zeitgeist and infuse elements of hip hop and groove. Fear Factories sound stayed fairly consistent (if somewhat anemic) over their next two Dino-less albums. Then with Mechanize, the ferocity had returned.

Over at Invisible Oranges, there was a feature on the role of disgust in death metal. Bands like Autopsy and much of the first wave of Swedish death metal possessed an ability to create dangerous, nasty sounding riffs that sounded equally vomited as roared. Continuing in this vein, I would argue that ferocity has a significant role to play, particularly in the more extreme metal genres. By ferocity, I do not mean “brutal”. But like the term brutal, ferocity is to a large degree a phenomenon defined by the individual listener. For me, ferocity can be both exciting as well as exhausting. When tempered by melody, groove or original/inspired song writing, ferocity becomes another musical emotional palette to draw from. However, untempered ferocity, for this listener requires too great of an emotional investment to appreciate. I can acknowledge the ferocity of hardcore and metal straddling groups such as Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan. The problem is that I can only listen for a short time before the ferocity exceeds itself and becomes a repetition of a metal meme. This holds true for black metal as well, the cutting guitar tones, white noise, fast tempos and reverb eventually blur together to create a constant swelling and retreat of white noise.

Astomatous’ new album, The Beauty of Reason, has ferocity. Think death metal via the dissonance and goosestepping rhythmic lurch of Gorguts, the instrumental chops of Hate Eternal and the on the edge of the precipice of madness advocated by Australia’s psychedelic, death metal by way of black metal (and vice versa) of Stargazer all played by the rhythm section of one of the key proponents of American black metal, New York’s Krallice and you have The Beauty of Reason. This is a ferocious album. While it constituent parts may appear to resonate with my argument against excess ferocity above, the reality is the songs, while unquestionably death metal are well crafted, interesting, familiar without being predictable and exciting. There are different shades of ferocity squeezed into what is essentially a twenty first century update of the Florida tech-death sounds of the early and mid nineties. Ferocious and original. Now if only I had enough money to finance a vinyl release for these New Yorkians, then all would be well in the world! Alas, digital and compact disc versions are available on the band’s bandcamp page.
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