Review Summary: The Faceless are a breath of fresh air in the American metal scene.
Brutal, technical, progressive, groovy, intelligent, all of which can be used to describe Akeldama
, the debut album by American metal band The Faceless. The young sextet from Los Angeles possess an incredible amount of technical ability, all of which is used in the chaotic onslaught of their impressive debut. They have a wide range of influences as shown by the 8 furious tracks featured.
And they use their influences well. Granted, The Faceless do not bring anything remarkably new to metal, yet the sheer talent they band members have is impressive to say the least. In their music, traces of bands such as such technical metal giants Between the Buried and Me and Necrophagist can be heard. However, Dream Theater also seems to be a very prominent influence. Hell, the slightly symphonic atmosphere given off by the keyboards even remind me slightly of Prometheus-era Emperor, though not as dramatic.
The band is not afraid to experiment with odd time signatures as well, best shown in the instrumental title track. It plays almost exactly like a Dream Theater instrumental track would, minus Petrucci’s famous guitar wankery. The song opens up with robotic vocals very similar to that of Cynic, before a sweeping lead carries the listener into the song. The song is choc full of grooving leads, technical solos, and impressive drumming. The amount of times the song changes is quite astonishing. The song is a complete mind***, yet, it is the tamest song on the cd. Unlike the 7 other tracks Akeldama
focuses more on The Faceless’
technical prowess than gut-renching heaviness.
That’s not to say the rest of the songs are not technical at all. Quite the contrary. Album opener An Autopsy
is a runner up for best song on the album. It opens up with a short drum fill, before a speedy guitar riff absolutely grabs the listener by the balls and doesn’t let go. Everything about the Faceless can be found in this short, 3 minute song. There are the brutal, head-banging riffs, the orgasmic solos, the intense drumming, even the cheesy, almost industrial sounding keyboard interludes.
This brings me to my next point. The keyboards are used very intelligently on this album. They may not seem incredibly prominent in all the songs, but there is many a moment in which the keyboards shine. All Dark Graves
opens with an eerie symphonic passage consisting of an atmospheric plucked string part, all thanks to the keyboards. Leica
also features a very techno-ish keyboard interlude about 4 minutes into it, perfectly bridging the gap to the climax of the track. The title track also makes room for some tastefully done keyboard solos and leads.
The album’s actual string section is not one to mess with either. Michael Keene and Steven Jones possess an insane amount of talent. Their talent is used very tastefully as well. Instead of relying on shredding, the two work on creating immense riffs, often performed in odd time signatures. Pestilence
features an absolute gargantuan of a riff in its “chorus,” performed at a speed that would make Herman Li hide under his bed in shame. Closer Ghost of a Stranger
is a mixed bowl of everything the guitars offer. The sweeping leads rival those of Between the Buried and Me, and the short interlude before the coda has a very unique sound, which almost resembles drops of water falling in a deep, endless cave. The Faceless do not lack one bit in the bass department either. Brandon Giffin’s base can often be heard well, and he gets more than a few chances to solo.
If one word describes the drumming on the album, fast would be the word. Much of the drumming delivered by Nick Pierce is delivered at inhumane speeds. In fact, at times it sounds a bit robotic, which is not necessarily a bad thing but one of the albums very few cons. The double bass is constantly abused, best shown again in the chorus of Pestilence.
The double bass is what gives the album it’s kick (pun intended) and it overall makes the album sound much meatier.
However, the most impressive member of the band may have to be the vocalist. Derek Rydquist is an absolute beast, and one of the best American metal growlers. He has a wide range of vocal stylings, ranging from his incredibly low growls, which are much like those of Muhammed Sucimez of Necrophagist, to high pitched shrieks. There is even a brief moment in Pestilence
in which there is clean singing, though it is by no means as impressive as his harsh vocals. Listen to An Autopsy
for a feeling of Rydquist’s most prominent and impressive growls.
Not only is the album impressive instrumentally, but the lyrics are actually done very well. An Autopsy
may in fact be about an autopsy, yet the way the lyrics are written are much less gory and much more poetic than would be expected. Keep the lyrics handy however, as very little is decipherable. However, the previously stated robotic vocals that open up the title track can be deciphered, and are very well written:
To have ensured freedom...
The fears of mortality must be forgotten
No longer living for death, no longer dying to live
Existence and nonexistence coagulating
Safety found your ignorance, shackling human individual.
All of that aside, there are a few flaws on the album. The biggest is the production of the drums. To put it bluntly, the snare sounds absolutely horrible. It sounds very much like a deeply muffled marching snare head, and makes the drumming sound much more robotic than it should. Being nit-picky, I would have loved to have seen the keys stand out a little more, as about half the time, they are unnoticeable. The final con would have to be the length. The album is just 32 minutes long, and leaves the listener begging for more. Luckily, the quality of the music on the album is strong enough to keep the listener on edge for the whole half hour.
This is a tough album to pick highlights for. However, I would have to say that my favorite song without a doubt, is Leica.
It opens with a riff that reminds me much of Rust in Piece era Megadeth, and other classic thrash riffs. At about 1:30. there is a very groovy riff that leads to a harmonized guitar solo, and a short keyboard solo. The last minute and a half of the song is what makes the song. There is a catchy melodic-death metal riff going on paired with some emotional growled vocals. This leads into the before mentioned keyboard interlude and solo, before epicly climaxing into a full band onslaught. Keeping it simple, this song absolutely slays.
+Technical, yet tasteful guitar and bass work
+A variety of influences are utilized without overwhelming the listener
-Bad snare drum production
-only 30 minutes long
-The two Horizons of Chaos
tracks are slightly
weaker than the other tracks, and bring nothing new to the table.
-Derek Rydquist left the band =(
2. An Autopsy
3. Ghost of a Stranger
are a breath of fresh air in the American metal scene. Keep an eye out for more material from there guys.