Review Summary: The album Tre Watson was itching to make on "Death of a Monarch," Carthage's self-titled debut is loaded with majestic guitar playing, groovy bass leads, and exuberant drumming that is certainly worth a listen.
A good number of folks have heard of Tre Watson by now. He's released two full-length albums on his own, has been featured on numerous djent releases, and has been accruing production credits around the community. With all of this under his belt, it seems odd that there had been little mention of his band, Carthage. Tre had mentioned them as early as the release of his first solo album, Lexicon of the Human Subconscious
, but outside of a few tracks listed on their MySpace, there was little to hear from Carthage until now.
From the inviting drum beats of opener "Salt the Earth," Carthage begin with an appealing sound that is expanded by the dark guitar grooves signature of Tre Watson. The sound builds to the screams of vocalist Eric Hendricks before kicking into the high pitched djent squeals Tre popularized on his solo works. From the onset, it's apparent that Carthage
follows directly in the vein of Tre Watson's previous effort, Death of a Monarch
. However, there are a few significant improvements to be found here.
Perhaps most prominently, the rhythm section breathes a life into the music that cannot be found in Tre's solo releases. Drummer Billy Berger still manages to pound away heavy and intense beats at the level the genre demands, but does so in such a way that, from the onset, they sound organic and driving rather than tired and overproduced. Perhaps most astonishing and appealing, however, is the basswork of Robby Gossweiler, which goes so far as to take a leading role in several tracks, including a unique rattling sound at the end of "Juxtaposition" and an intriguing opening groove in "Curse of Omniscience."
Guitars on the album seem to have taken a page directly out of Tre Watson's playbook, but cater themselves more towards a group dynamic, especially near the end of the EP, where "Curse of Omniscience" and "Waking the Giants" light up the album with bright acoustic interludes and warmer solos between gloomy, down-tuned chugs. Vocals, for the most part, remain at a consistent low scream, but add an element that was clearly lacking in Tre's last instrumental release that makes the album feel whole. The band also does a good enough ob of trading off vocal duties and of delivering chants, spoken phrases, and even a clean phrase that they're able to keep the EP interesting and prevent constant growling from grating on the ears.
Crushingly heavy and consistently fresh, Carthage have managed to release an album that breathes a little life into a stagnating genre. if you've got an ear for the heavy side of metalcore with a progressive edge, Carthage's EP is not only worthy of a spot in your collection, but indicates that what's coming next is worth saving room for.