Review Summary: Even without considering the merit of this album being self-produced, One Above the Heretics excels at blending hard rock and metal into an inventive and successful endeavor.
We all impatiently await the next release by our own favorite band. It’s only natural! We get excited at running across news on the advancement of such project. Sometimes bands might even go as far as taking strange decisions in order to maximize the intrigue and feeling of expectation that accompanies the wait (I used to think that Scott Weiland would probably do anything necessary to be in jail every time Stone Temple Pilots released a new album). But most of the times all the expectations that we’ve formed are short-lived, since once we listen to the album, we end up feeling that there was something missing. Most of the times, we are disappointed.
But why does this happen? It seems to me that it’s also natural, in the realm of hard-rock music, to strive to obtain the satisfaction of discovering something that is not really well-known. I mean, rock was always something rebellious and radical, and as so, bands have always needed credibility and somewhat of an independent character within its music to really achieve prominence. In harsh exaggerated expression, let’s say that popular rock is not real rock.
So, taking this important aspect of hard-rock into consideration, let’s talk about Numic, the Northern California quartet which has focused its career on self-producing, self-promoting, self-distributing… well, it could be said that Numic has based its whole existence as a hard-rock band on “selfing”. And, where many other acts could have lost direction or quality, Numic found its niche and created One Above the Heretics, the follow-up to 2004's Recrudescent Feed.
Not to difficult to get a hold of, Numic’s OATH offers soulful and dedicated music, achieving that precise formula which makes use of well-known hard-rock and metal elements, but does not shy away from adding risky uniqueness into the procedure. It’s like, at first glance, it’s not difficult to blame Stephen Thomas (vocals) of following the now-old Maynard-imitator direction, only to later push such comparisons aside when Thomas bursts out in fits of anger and growling of which Maynard would never take part . Profound and devoted lyrics rage on through uncommitted melodies to add up to a five-star performance of vocal tenderness and delicacy.
The same thing happens with Numic’s instrumentation. At times a fierce attack; soft, melodious and tense on occasions, John McKinney (drums) and Matt Healy (bass) offer a resourceful base for Dennis Michael D. to shred and lead through his mystic and commanding guitar. And what a feast it is to hear Numic’s self-determining display of talent and originality, especially as the song structures bend and tear to welcome vivid arrangements and elated peaks.
One Above the Heretics shines its brightest on Last Apology, an almost 5 minute cut, which opens up with rough enthusiasm to allow for Stephen Thomas to blare with long sustained notes on the chorus as he reveals the punctual revengeful aim of the song: “I keep everything inside, until I can hurt you”. On the subtle side, I’m Becoming is another track which exposes the potency of the album, but now from a dissimilar, more mournful angle.
But for those of us who appreciate the more complex outlook, Oath, the final piece, proposes a long and progressive flight out of the album, permitting very proficient acoustic guitars to embellish, and random cymbals to take the listener into trance.
Bottom line, Numic has achieved as much as was possible on this path. No more can be asked of a band which has adhered to its free spirit as much as possible while continuing to create big music. One Above the Heretics is an extraordinary offering of hard-rock, but leaves me wanting much more from a band which refuses to take the next step.
Numic’s OATH is highly recommendable for alternative metal enthusiasts, and fans of Tool, Deftones and Katatonia. Let us all hope Numic one day gets to the point where a new album runs the risk of disappointing, due to excessive publicity.
Recommended tracks: Last Apology, Forever Hold Your Peace, I’m Becoming, Oath.