Review Summary: Although When Legends Become Dust doesn't have the meat and longevity of most tech metal albums, the guitar work is so infectiously melodic and fun-loving that it's near impossible not to enjoy yourself listening to it.
After abandoning the sinking ship that was With Passion
, its crew wasted no time in picking up what was left of their former band Conducting From the Grave. And from ruins they rise, complete with a new vocalist, new songs, and freshly signed to Sumerian Records to help bring the 50 minute shred-a-thon called When Legends Become Dust
to life. Although this is the band's debut album, Conducting From the Grave has been around for roughly five years and even self-released an EP titled Trials of the Forsaken
, but up until now line-up changes and financial problems have hindered the progress of both With Passion and Conducting From the Grave, forcing their members to flip flop between bands. Luckily it looks like very smooth sailing from here on out.
When Legends Become Dust
could accurately be described as a guitar player's utopia of sorts. Actually, that wouldn't be entirely accurate to be fair. It's more like a guitar player's circus if anything since John Abernathy and Jeff Morgan's undying love for uplifting, melodic guitar work has never been clearer. Most tech metal bands usually lean more towards dark exotic and minor scales when writing, and while there is some of that especially on the grueling Necrophagist
-esque solo in "Marching Towards Extinction," but most of the time your ears will be treated to a fun-filled assault of melodic guitar acrobatics.
Thankfully Conducting From the Grave doesn't get too carried away with all of that melody stuff, and remember to come back and remind you that you are still listening to metal by serving you the occasional breakdown. To be honest I don't care for most bands with breakdowns. Typically I feel that they are either written with the intent to give kids something to dance to or that they simply can't think of anything more interesting. Thankfully, Conducting From the Grave doesn't fall into either category, or at least most of the time. Nearly half of When Legends Become Dust
is comprised of songs taken from their, at this point ancient, EP with some of those songs indulging in more chugging than necessary, but most of the breakdowns are genuinely interesting and never really feel like a crutch. "The Calming Effect" is probably the best example of this. The build up to the breakdown is played on the upbeat right before throwing you a tempo change, which is sure to throw off the momentum of your head banging your first few listens, and then plunging into the chaos that's about to ensue.
There is one other side to Conducting From the Grave's music that I have yet to mention. All throughout the album there are these beautiful dreamy interludes played on clean channel that are somewhat jazz-like, but very unlike the tacky jazz sections that many grind bands are so fond of. These parts show that the band has a reflective side to them as well and make for some of the best moments on the entire album, especially the closing clean instrumental section to the title track. Plus it gives the attention-deprived rhythm department a chance to take the reins and drive the song for a change. Outside the walls of these quirky instrumental breaks, drummer Greg Donnelly and bassist Steven Lovas are actually doing a commendable job as well though. Although not the best drummer in death metal today, Greg Donnelly certainly goes a bit beyond the call of duty. For further proof, just look at the intense double bass section of "A Never Ending Search for Closure" which runs from 1:16 to 1:38. And while you won't hear any bass shredding, you'll still hear (yes a metal album with audible bass, imagine that) Steven pumping out plenty of more technical bass passages as he races along keeping up with the guitar work.
Until now I've donned this album with nothing but glorious praise. However, there are some chips in the paint. If I had to complain about anything it's that a handful of the songs lack focus in their structuring. This really only applies to a couple of the songs that were re-recorded from their EP though. Since then, Conducting From the Grave has matured and tightened up their song writing, but these few instances in their old material that lack direction make this glaringly obvious. And although the vocals on this album are strong, I would still argue their old vocalist was better. The new guy on the block, Lou Tanuis, who once filled in for Through the Eyes of the Dead
, has a lower range which is less suited to Conducting From the Grave's brand of metal. He does a fine job, but I doubt you would point his work out as the highlight of the album.
I guess all good things come to an end. That was my feeling as the final song came to a close. I haven't been this excited over an album in a while. I think many tech metal purists will scoff at the breakdowns and wildly melodic guitar leads, but for me personally this is my favorite death metal album since the album they put out in 2007 under the name With Passion. Although When Legends Become Dust
doesn't have the meat and longevity of most tech metal albums, the guitar work is so infectiously melodic and fun-loving that it's near impossible not to enjoy yourself listening to it.
"When Legends Become Dust"
"Marching Towards Extinction"
"From Ruins We Rise"