Review Summary: Sydney siders stamp their name permanently into the Australian metal scene with a strong debut. "Severance" consists of sweeping melodic metal that would make the likes of In Flames and Soilwork nod their heads with approval.
The first time I had heard of this band was back in 2003 when Kerrang (now deceased in Aussieland) gave out free sample compilation cds of all the new talent coming out locally and internationally with their magazine. The song was called “The Blood Of Angels” by Sydney-siders Daysend, and the first thing that struck with me was the immense and brutal vocals of Simon Calabrese which when accompanied by the tight-as-spandex instrumental barrage of guitars and drums, I set my pen to add “Severance” on the list of albums to get ASAP. Well, was it worth the train fare into the city and hours of searching for this album in the bustling hours of Melbourne CBD?
Yes, it was definitely worth it. However, I was disappointed in some aspects of the album; the lyric content is a little too nu-metal and angst ridden in some songs (for example the breakdown in ‘Born Is the Enemy’ where Calabrese screams, “You’re not going to bring me down!”) He delves into some of his personal issues throughout the album that can be easily interpreted in simple forms, but it is the conviction of his vocal delivery, which must be commended. His singing/screaming ability and his ease of switching to and fro in seamless transition add to the sweeping and changing pace of the music. Unfortunately for Daysend, Calabrese has recently left the band due to reasons that are undisclosed but it can be said that he has left a big gaping hole in one of the most important aspects of the band, which is generally unusual for a metal band where vocals are sometimes just tacked on to a sound of flaming guitars and whiz bang instrumental technicality. Besides Aaron Bilbija’s nice guitar work, Simon’s voice, and especially his screaming ability, was the central appeal for me to this band. I have yet to hear Daysend’s replacement but I don’t know whether he or she could ever match the ferocity of Calabrese’s vocal prowess but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Stepping away from the vocal facet of Daysend, the next point to make is the guitars and the unusual (within this genre’s) guitar solos. Rather than having blistering ear raping guitar solos that almost break the sound barrier, Bilbija (lead guitars) takes a different approach with a style likened to Meshuggah; slow and intricately woven pieces of solo work that add texture to the song rather than just simply decorating or solely relying on mesmerising listeners of how fast someone can play (check out the song ‘Sibling’ for an example). Not saying that the guitarists can’t play fast, they can play just as well as any other thrash metal band out there, but they retain some originality by approaching the guitar solo in a slightly different manner. But in saying that, there are a bagful of riffs that I found throughout the album that sound somewhat generic but not overwhelmingly derivative and still listen able without having to be kept on being reminded of where I first heard a familiar riff. The good thing, however, is that the melodies are fresh and exciting and this band excels in this aspect. Some of the breakdowns may be a bit too familiar sounding but the melodies and guitar harmonies are not. Take the song ‘The Blood of Angels’, disputably Daysend best song; the lead up to the chorus and the chorus itself is just an epitome of great melodic death metal, and in my opinion, almost beyond the ability of some of its obvious Swedish mentors and the better-known international band, In Flames.
By steering away from the obvious comparisons to Daysend’s sound, it’s hard to determine whether Daysend play a more metalcore sound or a traditional Swede-thrash metal sound whilst listening to “Severance”. I’m no labelling freak but it’s interesting to see other people categorize their sound. There is an obvious metalcore influence in the majority of the breakdowns used, yet Daysend never rely on catchy sing along chorus or simple octave powerchord harmonies, it’s all about the song as a whole, which is not to say that is a completely good thing. Personally I found that I either liked a song or didn’t as a whole, I never found that I like this part of a song or that part; each song was consistent within itself irrespective of my personal preference. Sometimes I feel with some bands is that it seems as if they find one good riff, and then they build a song around that riff, and it feels clunky and obvious when the band keeps repeating that single riff. This is not so with Daysend, they are never short on riffs and are able to keep progressing ideas with each song and not conform to some universal songwriting rule like some metalcore bands for example, where it is tended to be imperative that each song must have a slow and thick as milk-less porridge breakdown that people can mosh to. I could name a pile of bands that conform to this, and in my opinion, good bands are ones that make the genre appealing, great bands are the ones that exceed and break away from the illusion of limitation. Daysend fit in between this idea and are a good example of how the genre sounds at its best. They experiment within the genre, tackling different issues lyrically such as war, family dystopia, fleeting relationships, but never bring anything from the outside in. There is no real significant juxtaposition and no mingling of contrasting ideas, but the direct focus of one idea at a time serves Daysend well on this album.
The highlights of the album are more evident in the first half of the album; tracks such as the opener ‘Born Is the Enemy’, ‘Ignorance of Bliss’, and the succinct ‘The Blood of Angels’ are just some of my favourite tracks. The album falters around ‘End of Days’ until ‘Beggars with Knives’. The reason for this is that tracks such as ‘Sellout’ and ‘September’ seem a bit standoffish in its intent to be more unlike the other tracks. But overall this a well-written album, filled with decent composition yet restrained within the structure of the genre, which is by no means a bad thing when there is some awesome riffery and talented musicianship from all fronts to be heard.
Members of Daysend during the recording of this album:
Simon Calabrese – Vocals
Aaron Bilbija – Lead and rhythm guitars
Michael Kordek – Rhythm guitars and backing vocals
Meredith Webster – Bass and backing vocals
Wayne Morris – Drums
- The Blood of Angels
- Born Is the Enemy