Review Summary: Back When matures from blazing speed metalcore to Isis-style post-metal.
Somewhere along the line, Back When
matured from being simply another blazing fast metalcore band and decided to settle in to the more expansive world of "post-metal".
Instead of a 6 track, 12 minute EP, Back When's debut LP is a 7 track, 55-minute slab of down tuned, introspective and atmospheric crunch.
To start with, even the albums visual presentation is fantastic, from the slightly bleak album cover to the color scheme on the inside of the CD booklet.
If I had to make a complaint about this album, it is that nearly everything Back When does in these 55 minutes, Isis or Neurosis has already accomplished, and most of the time it has been done better, with more finesse, which drags the album out a tad for those who already frequently enjoy this type of music.
The only other issue I can find with "We Sang As Ghosts" is the overall tone of the album.
The songs meld together in a very nice manner, and the order the tracks are laid out in is perfect, but each individual composition often doesn't have a huge difference in sound from the track before, with the exception most likely being the exceptionally noisy "The Lowland Leave-Taking".
Besides those two issues, and without going into my nit-picky issues with the guitar production, "We Sang As Ghosts" brings a lot to the experimental/doom metal table.
Each song is highlighted by the titanic shifts between down tuned crunch and ethereal overlays of guitar and keyboard, particularly the 7th minute of "Essays In the Moonlight III", which features the keyboard solely on it's own, playing a punctured rhythm until a massive shift of cymbals and screamed vocals erupts.
On that note, I absolutely love the vocals on this album.
Less death metal than Isis’ Aaron Turner, the screamed sections are somewhere between a screamo album and standard death metal growls.
The contrast between the throaty screams and the excellent singing is another idea Back When has taken directly from Isis, particularly from Isis songs such as “So Did We”.
The good point of this, is that it almost ensures a fan of Isis will be able to find something to enjoy in this album.
Overall, Back When executes their “post-metal” view very well, by both taking very well structured and executed guitar and keyboard parts, and adding an amazing rhythm section, particularly drummer Aaron Broveak, who whales on his set with Bonham-like fervor and intensity, to create a very cohesive and well put together album.
Unfortunately, Back When’s growth isn’t enough to yet eclipse what Isis and Neurosis have and are doing, but if a former metalcore band can progress this much in two years, I’m excited to see what’s next from this Midwest metal outfit.