Review Summary: The Faceless deliver technical brutality and experimental ambiance. One of the most punishing metal records of the past couple of years.
At the end of 2008, the metal scene was becoming filled with uninspiring metal hybrids, one after another. Being able to distinguish bands was becoming increasingly difficult, but a handful of bands stood out of the crowd. At the end of 2007, Between the Buried and Me released "Colors", early 2008 was Protest the Hero with "Fortress", and just before the end of 2008, The Faceless' release "Planetary Duality".
Instantly upon listening to The Faceless this time around, I found that they embraced and developed the Necrophagist influences more so throughout "Planetary Duality". Nile influences are also very present on this album. The Faceless do not utilize their brutality through breakdowns (only once or twice on the album), the riffs that Michael Keene and Steven Jones deliver have so much groove that you can't help but bang your head.
The opener, "Prison Born", swells in slowly and before you can take a breathe, the guitars come in at 200bpm with the technical brilliance you have come expect from these guys. The drums on this album nothing less than amazing. All the instruments compliment each other perfectly. At :25, they break it down and the solo comes busting in. Michael Keene's tone cuts through the mix very well on this album. The track is just under 2 minutes but packs an amazing punch. This album features some vocal modifications, to give the intergalactic feel.
Just as quickly as it ended, "The Ancient Covenant", surges with an opening bass tapping sweep, which showcases the skill of the backing end. The first solo in the song is slow and well placed, which then slows down and picks back up under a slow groove. The verse is just destruction in every way, I'm sitting there getting my blast beat fix for the year. The second solo under the chugging riff is much faster and soars through the skies with epic tone.
In comes the interlude, "Shape Shifters" , which gives off a dreamy like feel with clean picked guitar. This is the perfect interlude, the overall sound and production on that track is quite outstanding. 44 seconds of perfect execution.
One of my favourite songs on the album, "Coldly Calculated Design", comes up next and brings you to your knees with a devastating opening section mixed with blast beats and amazing fill work on drums. The breakdown build up is very intense and is complimented with what I would give, "The Most Appropriate Fill of the Year Award" to. The breakdown which follows is by far one of the heaviest things I have ever heard. Following the breakdown is one of Michael Keene's best solos to date. His phrasing and tone speaks for itself. He also then delivers some clean vocals during the quick thrash section. The song ends where it began, which I thought was very appropriate.
One of the Faceless' best songs to date, "Xenochrist", demonstrates everything that these guys are about. I am positive that you will humming and air guitar-ing the verse. The keyboards make an appearance early in the song, during a section that could have easily been on "Akeldama". The solo is very experimental for Mr. Keene but it delivers everything and more. Tapping, sweeping, alternate picking runs, legato slides. What more could you ask for. During the solo section, the bass and drums are grooving like nobody's business, showcasing their many different styles. You will be banging your head for the last minute and half.
Finally, they let up for a second. "Sons of Belial" comes in with some slow picking with delay. This song reminded me of "Horizons of Chaos Part 1: Oracle of the Onslaught", a slower tempo song with more brutality than any of their faster songs. Not to say that the whole song stays slow, because it gets ridiculous after a minute or so. Michael Keene delivers another clean vocal performance which is a good addition. "Sons of Belial" is one of the weaker tracks on the album but still a really good song in comparison with any other death metal band.
"Legions of the Serpant" instantly blasts you in the face with tight technical grooves with trade off sweeping. One of the stronger tracks on the album that showcases how progressive they are. The keyboards are very present in this song and a clean piano interlude was perfect in the middle of the song. I wish the solo was a little longer but what can you do. Back into the intro riff and my head can't stop banging! Tremolo mania continues, accompanied by the outstanding double bass work. Groovy, extremely technical, and piano interlude. I couldn't ask for more.
The last two songs on the album, "Planetary Duality I : Hideous Revelation" and "Planetary Duality II : A Prophecies Fruition" are my two favourite tracks on the album. "Planetary Duality I" begins with an erie sound clip regarding the invasion of extraterrestrial beings, which is under a muted chugging riff which soon makes an appearance in full form. The main lick is nothing short of brilliant, switching in and out of time signatures like maniacs. A constant double bass is soloed with the groovy bass work, where the guitar then come in with the palm muted main lick.
With the transition into "Planetary Duality II" flawlessly executed, the onslaught begins. I would have to say that this is their heaviest song to date. Everything is at top speed and never lets up. Michael and Steve save the big dirty for last. The mini solo middle section has the juiciest mid and high tone a man could ask for. They break it down into a slower melodic section, sporting some more clean vocals for about a minute or so. Back to the metal! The drumming just takes off towards the end of the song. Sometimes I wonder about what the human body is capable of when hearing the drumming coming from these guys. The song slowly fades out with the fast riff still going.
Overall, The Faceless have put out a monster of a record that should gain new fans and lose old ones. There was a more metalcore feel on "Akeldama", and with "Planetary Duality", they embraced the death metal roots a little more. All the songs deliver what is expected, and then some. The vocals are delivered with accuracy. Rydquist brings a lot of mid range screams, but not as many as on "Akeldama". He utilizes his low growls when needed and overall, gives a tasteful performance to compliment the style they play. I would go out to say that this was one of the best metal records of 2008. Thank you The Faceless!