Review Summary: Excellent metalcore from new kids on the block This or the Apocalypse. Could these guys be the saviors of the next generation of metalcore? Monuments gives a damn good impression that they just might be.
Let me preface this review by saying that I am one of the group that feel that metalcore as a whole has fallen into a monotonous ditch of non-progress over the last couple of years. I have yet to listen to or review a generally awesome album, but am at the present time, reviewing one that is pretty damn close. Here we have, Monuments, the debut album by metalcore young guns This or The Apocalypse. A sort of Norma Jean/All That Remains/August Burns Red fusion, the band plays a deliberate, aggressive form of metalcore, that carries a passionate political statement as well.
Again, my expectations for this one were average at best, so when the ferocity of the opening track, No Horizons, hit me, the very conviction and anger displayed had me hooked. The band is pretty much solid all around, and obviously has the potential to be great, mixing anguished vocals with wailing guitars and laying it all over some heavy drumming.
As far as the musical structure goes, TOTA merges elements of metalcore with some of mathcore, sometimes playing a technical kind of music, other times staying true to their genre. The guitars are all over the place, creating a scene of chaos, while the drums are consistently heavy, with rolling double bass throughout. (The bass, as with most metalcore is inaudible, but I'm sure its great) However, what really sets this band's instrumentation aside is thee exceptional guitar work of lead guitarist Jack Ebenshade. Although capable of playing the usual riffs, he sets himself apart from the rest of the pack by his angelic guitar harmonies that sort of exist in stark contrast to the rest of the music, which comes across as brutal and heavy. A great example of this would be on Monuments, the epic Elegiac, or Architeuthis which seems to be the prime example of the sound this band is trying to create. Jack is capable of just straight shredding as well (see Mauna Kea) The band also makes a venture into prog territory with Memento Mori, which has to be one of the coolest songs I've heard in a while, mixing soft acoustic guitars with a wailing guitar lead and an anguished scream, an example of this band's insane potential.
One much maligned facet of modern metalcore is the extensive use of breakdowns, which as many angry listeners know, sound the same after 3 or four songs. TOTA obviously took extra care to avoid this, making minimal use of breakdowns, and making sure the few used were creative and fresh, mixing with insane guitar leads or group vocals. The music stays fresh almost the entire CD and never leaves you with that ear splitting feeling of repetition found in many metalcore albums nowadays.
Vocally, TOTA does a great job of establishing their own sound by just singing. Vocalist Rick Armenillo does hot have the greatest vocal range, but he makes the best possible use of what he has. Picture early era Cory Brandan, mixed with Phil Labonte, his voice is a perfect balance of anguish and brutality. His lyrics, which I had a hard time coming across, carry a deep political message centering around our country's present troubles, and his voice, at least to me, carries that ideal sense of philosophical urgency.
Bottom Line: An excellent metalcore album from what appears to be a band with insane musical potential, great instrumental talent, a deep vocal message and kick ass album art. No matter how much you love/hate metalcore, I strongly suggest picking this up. The only negative I could find here is that the songs sometimes went on a bit too long for my personal liking.
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