Review Summary: Saviour is everything you love or hate about metalcore.
Saviour are interesting (or uninteresting, whatever your take on it) in the fact that they emulate exactly everything that is praised and criticised of the metalcore genre. They practically define it. On one hand, ‘Once We Were Lions’ is an assault of breakdown after breakdown, broken up only by gang shouts, and wait, another breakdown. However, the record finds redeeming qualities in the fact it exercises these metalcore ‘clichés’ extremely well. For one, the guitar tone is absolutely perfect; Saviours guitarists’ seem to find the perfect niche between muddy distortion and clarity. Each note is crisp and retains the brutality you expect of the genre. The tempo is constantly changing, enough to get fans moving at gigs and the like. ‘Once We Were Lions’ also has that certain something, which allows the album to be listened the whole way through its extremely short length (37 mins) and not sound like a chore.
That certain something could very well come in the form of Shontay Snow; the female vocalist who’s harmonies surround the record. Snow’s parts often add a balance to a lot of the songs, her voice giving the listener an avenue to divert to after the bombardments of breakdowns and heavy hitting riffs. Refrains such as the ‘where are my angels when I need them?’ at the close of ‘Atlantis’ and the sugary opening of ‘Braille’ are beautiful in their own right, and as hard it is to comprehend a clean female vocal hooks as being the main draw of a metalcore album, it defiantly adds a lot to the bottom heavy sound Saviour create. Snow also fits in perfectly alongside Bryant Best, Saviours vocalist. Saviour really strike gold where Snow and Best deliver punch by punch on ballad-like songs such as ‘Evelette’ and the closer ‘Homecoming’.
Whilst Snow’s voice is instantly likeable and tuneful, Best’s screams take a little getting used to. Varied in comparison to metalcore stalwart vocalists Oli Sykes and Jake Luhrs of Bring Me The Horizon and August Burns Red respectively, Best’s screams are harsh and off-putting at first, but for those willing to listen to Saviour’s sound a few times, Best’s voice can be quite rewarding. Hearing Best’s natural voice under his screams is one aspect of this idea, but also delighting metalcore fans with those death metal lows not too uncommon from many bands today.
The album is not without damaging flaws however. ‘Once We Were Lions’ contains the all too familiar meathead lines notorious of the genre, such as the woeful ‘what the *** are you looking at?’ and even worse ‘who’s ***ing laughing now mother***ers?’. Lines like these really detract from the album and make it a laughable attempt at bluntness and ‘brutality’. The album also struggles to overcome the weight of so many breakdowns, there are some brilliant riffs buried in between monotonous breakdowns, which is a saddening fact. The screams get a little over the top as well; one listen to ‘Scarecrow’ (a track riddled with poor vocals) is likely to turn you off the album completely.
Nonetheless ‘Once We Were Lions’ remains a solid foray into metalcore absolutism. There are some good points (the opening riff of Atlantis wouldn’t sound too out of place on a Deftones record) and some bad (the aforementioned ‘Scarecrow’). ‘Once We Were Lions’ is an album to head into with an open mind, for metalcore fans and haters alike; the album could appeal to you regardless. But expect this: an album riddled with metalcore convention.