Review Summary: Fero Lux's debut proves that diametrically opposed parts are capable of building off each other when the pen is in the right artist’s hands.
In order to fully understand how Fero Lux’s debut is as much of a success as it is, it’s essential to first examine what deems a mathcore album a classic. If we closely examine Dillinger Escape Plan’s Calculating Infinity (1999), we witness a deft merging of brutal technicality with emotion imbued at every turn. Also on display is We Are the Romans (1999) by Botch, an assemblage of intoxicating riffs injected with a healthy dose of musical theatrics. And The Number Twelve Looks Like You’s Mongrel (2007) could never have been as well-received if the production hadn’t been so immaculate. As is evident from these landmarks, it takes a certain degree of lucidity for an album in the genre to gather praise. It’s also vital to note that there’s a significant difference between an earth-shattering rawness and an album being recorded with a four-dollar microphone in the garage. The inherently messy act of mathcore must be engineered meticulously and delicately, like an engine that could putter out of fuel at the slightest blunder. This is precisely why South Floridian four-piece group Fero Lux have struck out so vastly on their first go at a full-length. They successfully tread this tightrope with minimal casualty, and even end up gaining an unforeseen momentum that only the next torchbearers for the mathcore movement itself are capable of possessing.
The most impressive trait of Some Divine Ashtray is its ability to convey so much emotion through quite mechanistic musical movements. Though there are moments of unbridled mania, the parts always coalesce into a sum far greater. Let’s take, for instance, “The Sun That Eats with His Eyes” and its frenzied cessation a minute deep, and then its resuscitation soon after into a strikingly sophisticated melodic build. This poignant moment underscores one of Fero Lux’s most effective attributes, in that it’s always clear that there’s a method to the madness. A period for every sentence. A dip for every peak.
This beck-and-call style of songwriting is what propels the album forward. We can see through the more math-oriented moments that some heavy passages can be constructed when necessary. The true talent lies in the art of being able to unite these parts to the puzzle with other stylistic variances (and seemingly with ease). The varietal nature of Some Divine Ashtray deems it a listen that never grows tiring, and one that possesses a wide wealth of moments equally powerful, albeit in their own ways. The highlights truly are across the board – the harmonious splendor of “Kulina” offsets the initially dissonant and tightly knit introduction of “Books on Tape” perfectly, for instance – and this proves that diametrically opposed parts are capable of building off each other when the pen is in the right artist’s hands.
With a band taking so many risks and venturing into so many unexplored territories, a couple of glaring flaws become evident with repeated listens. One aspect of the album that dampens its potential is the capabilities of the vocalist. His screams, growls and shrill cries impress in their own right, but the moments of weakness reveal themselves when he attempts to grasp at notes that just aren’t there, like in the sub-par title track. It is always important to remember one’s capabilities, and this is a shining example of how a high degree of ambition can occasionally play out more detrimentally than anticipated. The problem exists not always with the notes sung, but rather emerges from the vocals not being pushed to the forefront. The clean vocals featured in softer sections are often impossible to discern. This leaves an enigmatic air regarding where exactly the album’s emphasis truly lies. His soaring voice has the capacity to glide expressively over the murky hues of the album, but its utilization will continue to drag the group down until more time is spent laboriously in the mixing room.
The uneven mixing and sometimes puzzling vocals serve as only an afterthought in the wake of such a musical mammoth, though, for at the end of the day the most enduring thought regarding Some Divine Ashtray will regard exactly how it arose in the first place. One would be correct in labeling it a mathcore album, but its influences are planted so deeply into the earth of the movement that its roots entangling and coalescing should be of no surprise to anyone. “It Rains” contains a southern elegance that can only be attributed to Every Time I Die, and Greg Puciato himself would be rather pleased with the rollicking introduction of “Mariah’s Last Stand.” Hell, the ending bit of “1968” even sounds like Glassjaw. So while it is necessary to understand the distinctiveness of such a release, it’s equally vital to allow ourselves to be floored at the fact that such a veritable oasis of influences is capable of being compressed into such a tidy package. Fero Lux grasp the tools handed to them by their predecessors, and instead of obediently following the overtired instruction manual they have founded an alternative path for themselves.