Review Summary: Not without imperfections, an impressive first effort regardless.
Every single day a new band comes out of nowhere with a half-baked bunch of recycled riffs, inaudible bass, out-of-the-box Superior Drummer 2.0 and a guy screaming on top of everything. We got used to this phenomenon due to the several years of the MySpace reign, rest in piece, the golden years of "anyone can be a musician on the Internet", metal/hardcore style. Disregard self-produced electro music on a pirated copy of FL Studio, it was all about Pod Farm down-tuned chugging from that point on. Because bands like that became an overwhelming majority, I believe we should take time to appreciate the few of the modern musicians who can actually, well, play.
Which happens to be the case here.
When Art By Numbers released "Twelve Days" on Facebook, I was absolutely hyped: my ears were filled with well-structured guitar lines inspired by classical/baroque music that didn't rely on absurd amounts of overdubbing and layering to "fill" the audio spectrum, a bass player that was not only listenable but was not afraid of showing he could bring something to the table without having to indulge in sloppy tremolo picking (a flaw several bass players from big bands in metal still have to overcome, because you either track tight or leave that job to someone else), programmed drums but definitely not horrible stock unequalized samples and blending very well in the mix and the most important part, a singing vocalist whose voice can be easily compared to a mythological siren’s: one moment you are listening to the lyrics sung by the innocent, almost boyish Anthony James and the next moment your ship is going straight for Sirenum Scopuli and you don’t even care because of how absurdly mesmerized you are. All of these attributes are present everywhere in the album.
Unfortunately, I cannot say the album shares most of the other positive qualities of that track: while all of the songs present challenging riffs that make you wonder why aren’t most of the other seven thousand bands playing in Drop C tuning even trying in comparison, several of them have song structures that feel incomplete and the overall lack of dynamics (partial blame on the mastering brickwalling, the other part being the final arrangement of Dustin Georgeson’s songwriting) and little variation in the vocals lead to giving the otherwise incredible musical pieces a rather monotone pace. For an album with a title referencing musicals and lyrics that pass the impression of inner turmoil-fueled Rock Opera, there are several things that could have been learned from these “genres”.
Even though there are some flaws, Reticence: The Musical is still nothing short of amazing for a debut: guitar and bass tones are more than pleasant albeit far from your bread and butter Metalcore standard; the waltz, mathcore, tango, nu metal, polka, dance music, post-hardcore, jazz, post-rock, death and modern progressive metal references from the band’s musical knowledge pool are played with in a very tasteful manner as are the chord progressions in songs such as Panacea, one of the album’s highlights; whenever there is some variation in the vocals, Anthony does a fantastic job from the smallest addition of effort to an incredibly well defined scream that, to be honest, I would not have minded listening to at all even if it was for the whole album (ironic, considering it’s not unusual to find screamers you’d rather not listen to at all); tasty riffing with arpeggios everywhere, obviously meant to appeal to those who studied in music conservatories but catchy enough for the listener who is looking for fast neoclassical playing with a couple piano/synthesizer licks completing the portrait the band was aiming to paint.
Was this all I expected from them? No. Would I recommend it? Yes, definitely: to even think a band could put out something of this level as a first work is mind-blowing to me. Saying it is an "okay job" would be an understatement so big it would border on "misunderstanding". There is no denying they have talent, know how to write high-energy sections and clearly planned the structure of the guitar riffs considering live performances (a mistake the members of Protest the Hero admit they committed in their first album, Kezia); now it’s only a matter of waiting until this fruit ripens and once it does this band will climb from “impressive” to “personal favorite” in no time. This one has a little of everything: it has enough pop appeal for the Hot Topic girls, it has enough tricky leads for basement-dweller guitarists like yours truly and it should be metal enough for everyone of us.
Recommended tracks: Panacea, Reyes, Twelve Days