Review Summary: An excellent debut from a band that may be destined for great things that is only slightly ruined by the annoying reliance on breakdowns and the hugely sub-par production
Like Moths To Flames are something of a touchy band in metal circles, even within the metalcore genre. On the one hand they are undeniably catchy and have some killer songs, but on the others many people rightly bash them for their near constant use of breakdowns and childish lyrics. However I feel that this band really does not get enough love, as they have a lot more talent than people give them credit before and their music is enjoyable enough to listen to even if it doesn't ever really push itself outside of its comfort zone. To date they have released one album with a second one well underway which isn't exactly anything to write home about but it should certainly be interesting to see how they build upon their solid enough debut album.
First and foremost, When We Don't Exist is an angry release, that much is sure. Songs such as GNF and one song that shall be mentioned later contain a huge amount of rage behind them, both through the thoroughly pissed off lyrics and the tortured screams of Chris Roetter. Chris is a decent enough vocalist with a nice enough range, with a signature style of shouting transitioning into a scream which it is surprising that they don't rip his throat open. The energy and power behind his vocal performance on here is nearly unmatched, bringing back fond memories of the furious ramblings of vocalists like Lord Worm despite the obvious different styles. When he shifts into his clean vocals the album may take a slight dip however as he is neither the most confident nor the best of clean singers out there, although he does hit some decent enough notes. The vocal performance on this album is as solid as it comes and creates a hate-filled feel of intensity and gives the band a whole lot to brag about.
The guitar riffs are very down tuned but sound decent enough. In particular they are at their best on the song You Won't Be Missed, which is my personal favorite off of this album. Whilst their guitarists use a lot of open string chugging during the frequent breakdowns, the intro riff and the chorus riff to You Won't Be Missed are very well and brimming with youthful energy. This is also one of the angrier songs on the album with lyrics that speak of someone who has wronged Chris that may be a little immature with lines such as "And i won't forgive you for this, so just know that you won't be missed!" but they get the job done and make this the strongest song on the album. Unfortunately the production on the guitars leaves a lot to desire especially considering the ultra-low tunings they use, making it very hard to distinguish the notes at times. The guitars are probably the second best thing about this album though as when they get going, such as the aforementioned chorus riff to YWBM, they hit the listener like a steamroller.
The other performances on the album are decent enough with the drummer giving the album a nice rhythm to build off and the bass is nearly inaudible but when it does shine through it is decent enough but seems content to allow the wall of noise the guitars create soak it up and mask it. The overall song writing on display here is nothing too special but is nice enough with the songs keeping a consistent aura of rage and anger behind them but the occasional weaker moment such as No Hope with its near unbelievable amounts of chugging or the at times pathetic lyricism such as "I dont give a F*ck about the way that youre feeling" sounding as though it belongs on a Bullet For My Valentine record. On the whole though this album is not bad at all and at times it is completely stellar. The one really bad thing about it is the production job which makes the guitars sound as flat as possible and everything about the album blends together to create an absolute chaotic sound and not in a good way, with the vocals taking dominance over the rest of the instruments which is unfortunate as the band is clearly talented; which is even shown by the clever placement of the breakdowns.
It will be interesting to see how the band follows this release up, as the new single sounds decent enough and a certain improvement on this. With better production and maybe a few less breakdowns this would have the potential to be in the upper echelon's of metalcore releases but as it is this is just an excellent record fuelled by a huge amount of energy that never lets up. Give this a go if you are interested in metal music in general but are not so elite as to completely disregard anything with breakdowns as this will certainly surprise. This is a band that definitely does not deserve their reputation, as songs such as You Won't Be Missed and the energetic My Own Grave show off nicely.