Review Summary: Refreshingly rough and tantalizingly fun, but there are too many toppings to fully enjoy the meal.
It's 2005. Metalcore is bombarding the music scene, and Winter Solstice decides to hop in and record their debut album The Fall of Rome, sharing the Metalblade Records tag with behemoths like As I Lay Dying; And now that Winter Solstice is no longer together, It's not surprising that this band and their only album have been overlooked.
You're introduced to The Fall of Rome with "Following Caligula", which serves as an adequate starter. Quick and catchy riffs with precise and loud beats will be sure to have your head bobbing in synchrony with the song. You will undoubtedly note that the production on this album is very rough, giving it an almost garage-band sound, but not in a bad way. It almost gives the listener a breath of fresh air after listening to the countless overproduced metalcore records.
Contributing to that disheveled feel is the vocals performed by Matt Tarpey. His screams are somewhat raspy and are very distorted, and can be best described as howling. They aren't entirely bad though; Matt has his share of lows and extreme highs, but the often monotone howling can wear down this release very quickly. Unfortunately, the vocals are so over-distorted that it is nigh impossible to make out what he is saying, which is a shame because the surreal lyrics have a lot of potential in them.
Beneath the vocals the music is not absolutely aspiring, but is remarkably addicting and fun. The guitars are always up to something catchy and exciting, and the unrefined qualities make it even more enjoyable. The drums on The Fall of Rome definitely produce a strong backbone for the rest of the band. Not only are they played very meticulously, but the sound is very crisp and powerful, making blast beats actually "blast" and making the double bass pedal interesting once again. The bass however is hardly audible.
The songwriting is not a terrible course, but they put way too much salt on it. Expect a plethora of breakdowns, some very witty and enjoyable, others just filler material. The Fall of Rome has many little surprises, like an overdriven guitar riff to pump listeners up before the breakdown in "The Hampton", or a very short double bass pedal showoff at the end of "To The Nines". Everybody loves surprises, but when they are presented to us as often as they are on this record, they become a little stale.
Through a first listen the songs may sound slightly similar due to the distortion on the guitars and vocals never changing, but each song really gives a different feeling. "Calibrate the Virus" gives you a very high strung feeling, while "Courtesy Bow" provides an easy going experience that you can't help but bump your head to. The title track "The Fall of Rome" is the acoustic song that Winter Solstice decided to toss in mid-album that drastically changes the pace. There are no vocals in the song, and it is a little too long for how uninteresting it is, but it flows so seamlessly into "Malice in Wonderland".
The Fall of Rome has lots of enjoyable material that is so easy to get sucked into, especially with their refreshing garage sound, but their is no question that they have overdecorated their album with breakdowns and little surprises that make this record become effete more quickly than it should.