Review Summary: “Well sure, you say they’re technical, but can they sweep pick?”
2009 saw a young and eager band by the name of Rings of Saturn hit the scene. Comprised of a few high school friends, the band put forth a unique blend of music (self-dubbed ‘aliencore’) that edged hideously close on the border between full-blown deathcore and technical death metal. With the self-release of debut album Embryonic Anomaly
, the band was quickly snatched up by Unique Leader records and had the debut re-released in 2010. What we saw on Embryonic Anomaly
was the band’s obvious technical prowess, with tons of technicality, brutality and a rare idiosyncrasy to boot, but what it lacked was focused song-writing, emotion and musical experience. After extensive touring with various bands (the likes of which being among Between the Buried and Me, Fleshgod Apocalypse, The Faceless and Decrepit Birth), Rings of Saturn hit the studio with a brand new vocalist (found in Youtube user Ian Bearer), drummer (one Ian Baker) and bassist (Sean Martinez, also Decrepit Birth’s current live bassist) to record their anticipated sophomore effort: Dingir
. Having had Dingir
leaked in its unfinished pre-production form, as well as having the release date for the album set back a few months, the band had been triggered to stream the complete, polished version of Dingir
to the public a good four months early, with full faith in the band’s fanbase that they would purchase Dingir
upon its February 5th release date.
was a release that was plagued by quite a few problems. Firstly, the album was all over the place. It was brimming with ideas, but the band never really executed any of them, just rather presented them unfinished before moving onto the next segment. While still an enjoyable album, overall it was sloppy, incoherent and full of nonsensical transitions and song structures. What it made up for in sheer technicality and sweeps (oh, the sweeps), it lacked in creative ingenuity, riffs and memorability. The production on the drums was so crystal clear that they sounded mechanic and it led to belief that the drums were done by a drum machine. The album suffered from this sense of monotony that eventually led to disinterest in the album over time, where it became a chore to listen to, rather than a pleasure.
Well, the drums on Dingir
appear to be victim of the same over-production problem they experience on the debut, but in everything else, the band have out-classed themselves and provided fans with a more mature, well-rounded and enjoyable release. And yes, this still sweeps as much as a janitor.
While on a first listen, Dingir
may come off as being as cluttered as its cover art, the finished product isn’t so. Through multiple listens, the album presents itself as surprisingly coherent and calculated in its conception. The album opens on an impressive note with the song ‘Objective to Harvest,’ with new vocalist Bearer quickly showing off his guttural lows and screeching highs, which are a definite improvement from former vocalist Peter Pawlak’s performance on Embryonic Anomaly
. And while this all seems standard fare, the band chugging and sweeping their way through monotony, the obnoxious snare pounding away in its over-produced state, the album shines its first moments of brilliance: a rising and (dare I say) uplifting guitar solo accompanied by a rather simple riff, which isn’t a problem, as it easily out-shines any moment on Embryonic Anomaly
and is instantly more memorable. The album only goes up from here, the band performing admirably with wacky riff experimentation and breakdowns that are actually in good taste, the kind that help bring a welcome addition to a song’s structure and are melded well into the music.
The musicianship is at an all time high here, the bass isn’t ignored (though does feel a little buried in the production) and shines admirably on songs like ‘Galactic Cleansing’ and ‘Utopia’. The guitars actually provide substance this time around, with lots of wonderfully executed soloing and riffs that double up with vocal hooks to bring forth a sense of involvement and enjoyment that I never experienced with the last album. And with it all, it’s actually obvious this time around that the band love what they’re doing. You can hear emotional and creative investment in the obvious effort that went into making this album. Instead of making an album I can just listen to and enjoy on occasion, they’ve made an album I can jam
to; I want to move, I want to headbang, I can really feel
the music. While I do sound like I’m praising this an awful lot, it’s not without its flaws. While undoubtedly a massive step up for the band, Dingir
still suffers some similar monotony that was found all throughout Embryonic Anomaly
. With songs like ‘Shards of Scorched Flesh,’ ‘Peeling Arteries’ and ‘Hyperforms’ effectively going nowhere, I find myself bored by these tracks and feel they could be so easily spiced up, because the band show all throughout this album that they’re capable of more than anyone had really anticipated. And all throughout the entire record, the band still play like they have a serious and incurable case of The Doodlies
, in which the musicians feel compelled by nature to noodle, sweep, blast beat and snare roll their way through each composition as distastefully as possible.
Finishing off with a bang, the last three tracks, ‘Fruitless Existence,’ ‘Immaculate Order’ and ‘Utopia’ really show what the band have to offer. While ‘Fruitless Existence’ seems standard fare for most its three minute play time, it falls into a very enjoyable and epic solo, then bridging into ‘Immaculate Order’ in which the band showcase their ability to jam tasty riffs, edgy hooks and let Bearer’s vocals really shine before breaking it all down into the closing five minute instrumental ‘Utopia’.
With ‘Utopia,’ Rings of Saturn are as enjoyable, precise and coherent as they’ve ever been. This track is packed full of memorable grooves, drum beats, guitar solos, riffs, and even quieter, more solemn sections that really push the boundaries of what the band is capable of. After all is said and done, Rings of Saturn has grown exponentially as a band and has the chops to show just what it can do. An undeniable step up from the technically impressive, but lacklustre debut Embryonic Anomaly
is sure to please old fans and even bring in new ones. Those skeptical about this band, I implore you to give this a try, as it may hold Rings of Saturn in a new light for you.