Review Summary: Frustrating because of how good it could have been. A major disappointment.
The first time I’ve heard something about this band was when I played Rock Band 2 for the very first time. The song in the game was a cut version of PREQUEL TO THE SEQUEL. The first 2:15 minutes of this song where so fantastic that I had to hear to whole album. I went on Sputnik to see if the album was considered good and hell yeah it was! At this moment I felt really impatient to hear what could be my favourite album of all time (4.2/5 overall rating + Progressive Metal + Heard awesome intro of PREQUEL TO THE SEQUEL = I couldn’t wait to hear it!). I searched on YouTube and found the whole album. After repeated listens I came to the conclusion that this must be one of the most overrated albums of all time! Such a big disappointment!
The album begins with FOAM BORN (A) THE BACKTRACK. It starts with some beautiful keyboard chords, and then the singer (Tommy Rogers) starts to sing softly on them, which reminds a bit of PINK FLOYD. Suddenly, everything goes in a MUSE-like harmony and riff with a cool keyboard lead over it. It’s then followed with some heavy riffing that raises the tension, until a blast beat comes and destroys everything on its way like an earthquake. This song is only 2:14 minutes long, and goes through a lot of tempos and moods without sounding incoherent or lazy. It is one of the best moments of the album, and truly gave me hopes for this to become one of my favourite albums.
Sadly, the rest of the album is far from being up to the hype. Right from the beginning of (B) THE DECADE OF STATUES, a lot of the transitions seem forced, some riffs get lazy, the vocals are annoying and the most important, it doesn’t really feel like an actual ‘’song’’. Sadly, this track and INFORMAL GLUTTONY are the most easily digestible ones on the album, thanks to a shorter length than the rest and two choruses in them. INFORMAL GLUTTONY is actually not that bad of a song. It has this building intro with a very groovy bassline and drum beat, some genuine moshing moments and the best clean vocals of the album (that chorus is magnificent).
After the first three songs, the album is slightly disappointing, but enjoyable still. People talked a lot about SUN OF NOTHING, ANTS OF THE SKY and PREQUEL TO THE SEQUEL being great songs, so maybe the album could still be awesome. The wrong news is, these songs are exactly what’s wrong with this album!
SUN OF NOTHING: Nothing seems coherent in this song; it constantly goes through dynamic shifts that are there just because the band seemed to be tired of playing the part before. Still, like in every track, some moments are really good (the last 4 minutes or so are incredible if you take away the useless breakdown) but are buried under several boring moments. Thankfully, Tommy Rogers’ death growls are less present.
ANTS OF THE SKY: It is a bit less annoying. It’s still all-over-the-place and lazy songwriting, just done slightly better. The second half of it is a lot better, mainly because it stays calm for more than 30 seconds. A lot of people talked about it, but the country part at the end is kind of retarded and completely out of place.
PREQUEL TO THE SEQUEL: Beside the first 2 minutes or so, this song goes through the same problems as the ones before, never knowing where to go. This is also Tommy Rogers’ worst performance on the record. A lot of people talked about it too, but the polka part in the middle is kind of retarded and completely out of place.
Seriously, each one of these songs should have been broken into 4-5 minutes songs that would contain the best moments. In this format here, I don’t have the patience to go through all the unnecessary material. It’s sad, because at least a half of the parts could be good if they knew what to do before and after them.
VIRIDIAN is, along with FOAM BORN (A), one of the two best tracks on the record. It starts very quietly with ambient keyboard and clean guitar, followed by the main part of the song which is an incredible bass solo. Dan Briggs is by far the best part of the band, and here he gets a wonderful shining moment. The solo is incredibly beautiful, thanks to a wonderful bass tone, a flawless execution and no feeling that it was there to show off. It then fades into WHITE WALLS, which many think is this album’s masterpiece. Well, it starts like it could be just that. But again, I’m sorry to say it’s far from a masterpiece. Unlike the middle three songs, almost every moment is great in this one. It’s just badly arranged and put-together like most of COLORS, which shows how wasted their potential is.
To give you an idea if you’ve never listened to them, their structure is similar to something like this: Good intro/blast-beat that kills it/unnecessary dynamic changes/ “insert other genre that doesn’t fit at all with the album” interlude/outro that takes a part of the first half of the track and modifies it to justify the fact that it’s called a song.
So, the album is incoherent, lazy, sometimes boring, pretentious, and at times a self-parody. Why do a lot of people like them that much? Because these guys are beasts with their instruments. Is it true? Yes, like 80% of it.
First, Blake Richardson (drums) has a great musical feel to his playing and can adjust to every time-signature there could be. However, he lacks some driving double-bass beats. The only time his playing gets fast is when he plays blast-beats, which most of the time annoy the hell out of me. Paul Waggoner and Dusty Waring (guitarists) have great technicality and melody overall, even if some riffs are repetitive (mostly in heavy parts). They also seems to be the main songwriters in the band (the music is obviously centered on guitar), which is an area that is clearly deficient. Dan Briggs (bass) is, like mentioned earlier, the best member of the band. He always seems to play the right thing at every second. He also has a lot of groove and a flawless technique. Tommy Rogers (vocals and keyboard) is however another great problem on this album. No screaming part is a highlight because his growl is just so bland and boring! His clean vocals are very enjoyable at times, but they are really badly produced (the chorus in DECADE OF STATUES is really hard to hear) and not used enough. The keyboard adds some nice touches here and there but it’s also not present enough.
+The musicians are really good
+The clean vocals are enjoyable
+Some parts are incredible (VIRIDIAN’s bass solo, PREQUEL TO THE SEQUEL’s intro, etc…)
+There is not really a “bad” moment.
-It is incoherent
-It is difficult to digest
-It feels lazy
-It is pretentious
-The country, polka and free jazz interludes do not work at all for me.
This album is such a disappointment! It has so much wasted potential that it becomes frustrating. One of many overrated metal albums like Master of Puppets, Number of the Beast, Jane Doe, Blackwater Park, etc… It’s just so good and so bad at the same time, a weird feeling that does not happen that often.
“Foam Born: The Backtrack”