Friday, 17 August 2012

The Faceless - Autotheism (Review)



Metal, like most genres is fickle. Most bands, especially at the extreme ends of the musical spectrum (tech-death, grindcore) are lucky to have one good album and spend the rest of their careers reprising, retreading and recycling it. Sometimes a recycle or a rehash is perfectly sufficient (it is hard to deny the radness of Decrepit Birth's Diminishing... and Polarity... even if they are the same album)  and sometimes it is disappointing.

The Faceless stand out among their peers as one of the few who have innovated, stayed true to a core sound and pushed in unexpected directions (especially melody). When everyone went for brutality and the breakdown, they went for speed and rhythmic complexity. When everyone else caught up, The Faceless turned to melody.

Melody is one of the most contentious areas of metal. Bundled tightly into this complex musicological concept are issues key to its core: masculinity, sexuality and that word: brutality. I have on many occasions praised atonality but perhaps I need to clarify my position. By atonality I do not mean one or two notes played in the lower registers contrasted with a tritone some octaves above. That is far too played out, it is done and it is not really that metal.

I am not referring to the rhythmic grunts and shreiks of metals uglier genre forms. When I say atonal, I am evoking a deliberate approach to melody that foregrounds consciousness and purpose in relation to standard melodic rules. From twelve tone theory to modal superimposition, to the drones of Sunn0))) and early Earth and the deconstructive, expectation defying approach of cool jazz.

On Autotheism, The Faceless emerge from an intellectual tunnel and demonstrate a cognitive and physical grasp of these concepts far greater than my own mediocre understandings. Supremely melodic and underpinned with a vocal approach that dares to step out of the zeitgeist (sorry Periphery, I get what you are doing but it just doesn't ring my bell) it is listenable on multiple levels from the technical to just flat out enjoyment of songs. Though starkly different to other tech albums released this year (Spawn of Possession's Incurso and Gorod's Perfect Absolution) it is a shining example of what metal can achieve when it is conscious of purpose, knowledgeable of the present and performed with an ear to originality.
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