Review Summary: Planetary Duality is a more than solid next step and a logical progression for the group, but it does fall just a bit short of its predecessor, Akeldama.
These days everyone can play fast. It's hard to listen to modern death metal without noticing the usual fare of blistering solos, pummeling blast beats and technical veracity. While it’s easy to find pleasure in these things, it’s also saddening because the joy in musical virtuosity has been dampened. Death metal bands now simply can’t just rely on their speed and flashiness to get the job done; something else needs to be brought to the table. Luckily for California’s The Faceless, they bring in a solid combination of catchy melodies, genre-hopping and an all-around knack for enjoyable songwriting. Planetary Duality
is a more than solid next step and a logical progression for the group, but it does fall just a bit short of its predecessor, Akeldama
The Faceless have really made their influences obvious here, frequently showing their appreciation for death metal giants such as Cynic, Nile, Necrophagist, Spawn of Possession and more. Lyle Cooper’s stellar performance behind the drum kit is as scorching as it is creative, especially in songs like “Xenochrist” and “Coldly Calculated Design”. While these two songs are your typical death metal affair, Cooper keeps the ball rolling with a few softer sections, and Cooper’s playing in both styles, for the lack of a better word, owns. Brandon Griffin’s bass work on here is also consistently solid, sometimes even bordering on amazing. Griffin has no trouble keeping up with the song’s demanding riffs and consistently providing a crushing low end to the album’s frequent breakdowns, like the devastating first minute of “Sons of Belial”. Griffin also instantly proves his worth with the opening tapping fill in “The Ancient Covenant”.
The rhythm section constantly provides a great backing groove, but The Faceless’ main draw is the stellar guitar work of Michael Keene and Steve Jones. Both Keene and Jones consistently impress on Planetary Duality
’s nine tracks. The album’s guitar work combines typical death metal shredding--changing time signatures on a dime, tight rhythmic chugging--and softer clean sections like the short instrumental interlude "Shape Shifters". The slower sections on the album are without a doubt the most interesting, mostly due to Keene’s tremendous soloing. “The Ancient Covenant”, “Coldly Calculated Design” and “Xenochrist” each feature solos where Keene conjures very inventive melodies that really stand out and allow the band to stand apart from its brutal comrades.
Vocalist Derek “Demon Carcass” Rydquist layers his vocals over the band nicely, frequently matching their tight rhythmic cadence. The additional keyboards (which are not nearly as invasive as they used to be), robotic vocals, and occasional clean vocals from Michael Keene are also a welcomed addition, as they keep the ball rolling in songs like “Planetary Duality II (A Prophecies Fruition)”. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Planetary Duality
is progressive, but I can’t think of another album that really sounds like this.
The Faceless’ sophomore release is one of the better death metal albums I’ve heard in 2008, but it’s not without its evident flaws. While the added technicality here is frequently entertaining and occasionally jaw-dropping, I can’t help but miss some of the incredibly catchy melodies Akeldama
featured in songs like “All Dark Graves”. I do appreciate The Faceless for not making Akeldama Pt. 2
, but this album didn’t hit me quite as hard. A few of the robotic and clean vocal sections, while providing contrast to the songs, just seem out of place and more comical than anything else. And even though “Planetary Duality I (Hideous Revelation)” is pretty badass from a musical standpoint, I can’t help but be annoyed that the band completely stole the audio sample from Tool’s “Faaip De Oiad”.
isn’t a classic by any means, but it’s still a solid technical death metal release that should grab the attention of any shredder out there. The Faceless have clearly matured as musicians and show potential for complete perfection with “Xenochrist”, which I consider to be the band’s strongest song to date and possibly my favorite song of the year. A few imperfections aside, this should be heard by any fan of heavy or progressive music.