Review Summary: The immediate excitement provided by this album that was what made me give it a 4 was quickly replaced by boredom after more plays. Rose Funeral attempt to mix in some death metal influences, but the breakdowns destroy anything that could have been.
Ever heard of Cincinnati deathcore act Rose Funeral? I didn’t think so. Their previous release “The Resting Sonata” wasn’t really anything special. With the guitars monotonously chugging through the songs with the same old riff after riff and breakdown after breakdown after breakdown, it was no surprise that they actually digressed in the music scene. At one point they were completely broke, had to deal with most of their equipment getting snatched, and had a plethora of fan troubles (UNO incident). Now why would I even pay attention to such a mediocre band? Is it because they are from the big OH or is because the vocalist was the only thing that kept me interested in “The Resting Sonata?” Maybe both, but I received the shocker of a life time when I turned on Rose Funeral’s newest album “The Gates of Punishment.”
Going through many lineup changes can be complicated for any band. In my opinion, their previous vocalist, Timmy, was the perfect deathcore vocalist. His devilish highs and grating lows were really all that kept me into the last album. So naturally I was nervous about their vocalist change. Ryan Gardner clearly outdid himself vocally. He performed death metal fashion where his screams follow the music to a tee (for example after the breakdown in Amidst Gehenna). Also worth noting is that there are two guest vocalists on this album. Death metal genius Steve Tucker of Morbid Angel and Kate Alexander added a small touch that only helped to diversify this album from other previous deathcore releases.
The very first song particularly caught me off guard. Starting off with a bell intro is the last thing I would have expected from this band. They also have a solo in the very first song. No, that was not a mistype- Rose Funeral actually incorporated a solo into their song. That’s at least one more than the last album. Being able to tell when a new song starts on an album is kind of important, and I am glad Rose Funeral decided to vary their guitars and vocal approach. For the first time since listening to Whitechapel, I encountered songs without a high and low vocal combination; instead they mostly focusing on the lows/mids (the first highs occur in Beyond the Entombed). This introduces the death metal aspect of this album. The guitar and drum part in particular point to this exceptionally technical genre. Ryan Gardner (also the lead guitarist and song writer) did a wonderful job on this album. The guitars repeatedly amazed me throughout the entire album with each song integrating new and refreshing riffs and solos. The drums, well, there isn’t much to be said besides the guy must be have robotic legs. The sheer speed that he is able to accomplish on the double bass is mindboggling. The fact that he can continue this pace through most of the songs is also astounding.
Stepping aside from one extreme genre to another, “Gates of Punishment” even has some black/doom metal portions. Most of this is due to the interesting programming/keyboard/piano and bell pieces that are strategically placed in certain songs. Kate Alexander herself adds some black metal magic that is not too far from Dimmu Borgir with her ghastly singing in the song Malignant Amour.
The only troubling thing is that it is fair to assume that Ryan Gardner is the only creative member in the entire band. In fact, the entire album is written by him. Therefore, if he ever quits, there could be some serious problems for this band. And although the band has tried their best to eradicate the downfalls of “The Resting Sonata,” some still remain. The drumming, although it is extremely fast for a deathcore band, could still be more creative and the breakdowns could be better. While some deathcore purists may love their crushing breakdowns that literally smack you in the face, they can get predicable sometimes. It is more like they went from having breakdown cancer where all of their songs were centered around a specific breakdown to a small tumor where they are only overused in certain parts. And as usual, the bassist must have been on a bathroom break because I cannot hear him for at least 95% of the album. I know it is very hard to incorporate bass and not make the album sound all muddy and dirty, but with the production being so precise, it was a shame that they did not even attempt to mix it in properly.
Besides these couple mistakes, “Gates of Punishment” is a release that this band desperately needed to rise to deathcore stardom (or to at least pay a couple bills). A couple songs I would recommend are: beyond the entombed, arise the infernal, malignant amour, and a recreant canticle.
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