Review Summary: ATB discover that they have the ability to write a coherent, structured song.
After the Burial's sophmore release Rareform
was an album that practically defined the phrase "mixed bag." It was a record that was characterized by a few moments of absolute deathcore brilliance tempered by a truckload of mediocre songwriting and mindless instrumental wanking without a regard for coherence. Tracks like Aspiration
remain some of the most brilliant deathcore songs in existence, but unfortunately, the record was overall too inconsistent to be truly called exceptional.
With the Minnesota deathcore quintet's third release In Dreams
, they seem to be making an honest effort to weed out the flaws that plagued their last album. Instead of the constant barrage of breakdowns and sweeps that they are known for, the songs on here have a stronger sense of purpose and coherence. Opener My Frailty
is the best of both worlds. It begins with an uncompromisingly brutal 8-string groove, but also showcases the band's newfound sense of melody with some slower, almost hummable parts. These show up at various places throughout the album, and are sometimes complemented by a sparse use of clean vocals. These cleans are something the band has never tried before, and they work in that they aren't overused but there's enough of them to effect the songwriting and structure in a positive way. There has also been tremendous improvement in the realm of harsh vocals. Just as the re-recording of Rareform had better vocals than the original, this album shows the band's second vocalist reaching new heights. The highs, lows, and mids are all significantly better: the mids are less shouty, the highs are less screechy, and the lows are more intense than ever before.
As always, ATB has some of the most awesome breakdowns in the business: tightly produced Meshuggah-esque polyrythmic chugfests that will make even the most disillusioned deathcore hater smile. It's hard to pick out just a couple highlights, as there are a hell of a lot of them. This, depending on your views on the genre, could be a good thing or a bad thing, but it remains certain that they are always well-executed and catchy, whether they are necessary or not. Aside from the breakdowns, the guitarwork is great, if not awe-inspiring. As mentioned before, they steer clear of the overt wankage that they've used before and instead opt for more coherent riffs, without sacrificing technicality. They even show that they can be catchy without using breakdowns: closer Encased in Ice
doesn't have a single real breakdown, but it is probably the most likely track on the album to get stuck in your head.
Musically, this album is miles better than anything the band has ever done before: it's more consistent, it's written better, and the vocals (all four styles) are markedly improved. But it still has a few glaring weaknesses. One is the production: it's tighter and clearer than ever before, but it's almost too
tight and clear. It almost sound choppy at points, which might work for other styles of music, but it's not nearly as good for the band's music as was the more bass-heavy tone on Rareform. Also, the consistency of the album can, at times be a problem. Every track here is good (unlike on previous albums), but that's all they are: good. This album lacks an Aspiration
. While everything is improved, the flashes of absolute brilliance shown on songs like Aspiration and in the final minute of Cursing Akenaten
never show up here, and are sacrificed for a more stable approach. This is less of a flaw than it is a sign of progression. This album still fails to meet the brilliance that After the Burial are quite obviously capable of, but it's a necessary step in the right direction. As long as they remain on the path of progression, they could easily make a deathcore classic. It's simply a matter of time.
Your Troubles Will Cease and Fortune Will Smile Upon You
Encased In Ice