Review Summary: Self described "shredcore" band. No, they aren't lying.
Technical and melodic punk is probably one of the fastest growing and most popular substylings of the genre today. After really delving into the sound with Strung Out, I exhausted myself searching for every similar band that I could. Belvedere, Early A Wilhelm Scream (prior to the release of the astounding Career Suicide
), and early Lagwagon were all in heavy rotation for months and months. However, just when I thought I had searched every last nook and cranny, a group of friends of mine introduced me to Alucard, and their 2006 effort After Dark
Alucard is actually a bit of fresh air though compared to some of the other bands out there. Whereas many bands seem to take cues from solely one style of metal, Alucard throws in just about every last one you could imagine short of black metal. Slayer guitar riffs and a pseudo-glam solo dominate the title track, while Unearth-styled chugging and pinch harmonics pepper ”Peasants to Pawns”
, until guitarist Mike Supina rolls in with the most well constructed solo Herman Li wishes he could have pulled out of his ass
. Hell, even ”Resignation Song”
, one of the albums strongest moments, is replete with jazzy clean guitar riffing that would impress even the most discerning player.
However, for all of the metal leanings scattered through the album, it is a punk album at heart and stays true to that. Melodic and catchy guitars over breakneck drumming is basically the standard fare for After Dark
and, in this case, it’s not a bad thing at all. The band plays technical music that is still catchy enough to remain palatable for just about any listener. Singer Colin Mattson has a pleasant voice and proves quite capable to push it all over the place. From the dark and sinister sound of the title track, to his heartwarming vocals on the acoustic dirge ”Summer’s Coming”
, he fits the band well and makes the album more enjoyable because of it.
Where After Dark
falters though, is in the songwriting department. Mattson is a perfectly capable lyricist, dealing mostly with relationships but avoiding being cliché and instead coming off as quite honest and sincere. However, the construction of the songs can be really overbearing at times. Where punk songs usually succeed by keeping songs fairly concise, most of the tracks here average deep into three minutes, and usually close to four. Many of the songs tend to suffer from just feeling over stuffed and too long for their own good. Where a song like ”Run to Extremes”
would be a perfect song, it is marred by the fact that just as it feels like it should be concluding, the band deems it necessary to go into some crazy, wankish hair-metal solo for the third time.
Production-wise, the album isn’t really outwardly bad so much as it is the result of someone who liked to play around with pro-tools a lot. The guitar tones, as a result of being so heavy, are so glossed over that it’s hard to believe they weren’t done bar by bar during the recording process. In fact, aside from Mattson’s soaring vocals, everything else is fairly downplayed. The solid drumming is hard to be impressed by sitting so low in the mix, where the bass is completely unnoticeable the full way through.
However, After Dark
is really a strong debut, loaded with tons of potential. Aside from the issues with production and song structure, this is a band loaded with a good deal of talent and a strong drive. In the end though, the shredding technicality from both Supina and partner Ryan Collins, and the powerful lyricism and voice of Mattson overpower the flaws by a good margin and produce a pretty kickass record. Now if only more punk bands would shred like this…
Recommended tracks: RC, Resignation Song, Summer’s Coming, There With You