Review Summary: With "The Human Condition", newcomers Aechoes creates a solid album, full of passionate roars, interesting riffs, and good production, but is in the end held back by conformity to the dreaded metalcore cliches, keeping them from achieving their true poten
An album, released back in 2011, that blew my mind was Erra's "Impulse," due to its overall striking solidarity and consistency, while somehow toying with new ideas along the way. Because of this, I looked up similar artists on last fm, hoping to find something similar in sound. In this way, I came across Las Vegas natives Aechoes, whose page proclaimed they were a "fairly unique metalcore band." So, I went out and got their debut "The Human Condition," and overall, it ain't half bad.
The album opens up with an intro, "Hello", which achieves its purpose, but I feel is a bit outdated. It opens up with a spoken sample, which the guitars build up around it, until it reaches a breakdown. While something like this is fine in concert, as it is a pretty good breakdown, opening a breakdown-heavy album with a breakdown intro is far from necessary. The first real track, "VDSBTSD" opens up with some echoing chords, then we're introduced to the vocals, which I believe are the best part of the album. Kiernan McArdle has a very gruff roar that has tinges of the tone that Randy Blythe of Lamb of God accomplishes, as well as a higher screech that isn't bad but not as original.
As far as the instrumentation goes, these guys know their way around well enough to make some good riffs and interesting rhythms, and the drums have a good tone. However, it seems that the album is split in half in terms of musical versatility, that the first half seems to be a more straightforward metalcore Risecore-appealing breakdowning sound, but after instrumental "Tears of Norris" (which, besides the name, serves as a highlight), the songs touch a more chaotic and often more hardcore approach, with serious hints of djent (see song "Into Awe"). Thankfully, the second half is not as generic as the first, but it also meanders without direction. Sure, it's solid, but there's no clear indication why the band is doing this. Another real point for them is the general lack of synth. As a rule for the genre, they're supposed to have synths over the breakdowns, but these guys use melodic guitar licks to skillfully play over the music.
There are three instrumentals, including the intro, "Hello"; "Tears of Norris", which features Diego Farias, guitarist of Volumes; and "Goodbye", the outro, with features Travis Montgomery, guitarist of Threat Signal. The featured artists are very good, and it serves to both compliment Aechoes' sound and insult it slightly. It's not common that guests be featured in instrumentals, as the typical formula is guest vocalists. However unique this is, it raises the question "Were Aechoes' guitarists not good enough to execute their own instrumentals?" The latter two touch on other forms of music as the outro almost sounds Latin at times (reminding me of Santana just a little), but unfortunately devolves into meaningless chugging, and "Tears of Norris" has a chill yet sad atmosphere, and is the best of the three.
Some negatives on the albums not aforementioned: the clean vocals. They are horrendous. This leads me to the comparison of Aechoes to I Killed The Prom Queen ("Music For the Recently Deceased"-era), in which the lead harsh vocals are one of the highlights, but the clean vocals are wimpy, pitchy, and just plain annoying in comparison. Also, Aechoes seems to have taken the route of the Risecore in terms of song titles. In an interview, vocalist McArdle states "Our songs consist of lyrics and music that document all aspects of our lives and all the emotion that comes with the challenge we call life." (I would talk about the lyrics, but I could only find the lyrics to "I Forgot I Was Ronald Reagan", so I find it insufficient). Is it okay, to name a song "VDSBTSD", which I later found out to stand for "Vampires Don't Suck Blood, They Suck D**k"? Or how about "I Forgot My Name Was Ronald Reagan" or "Tears of Norris"? What does this accomplish? Sure, bands such as The Devil Wears Prada, Chiodos, Sleeping With Sirens, Capture the Crown, etc., have all done it, but I don't see this as a good thing.
Another negative is the excess of breakdowns, particularly in the first half, and oftentimes they're paired with McArdle's vocals, which lose impact for this reason. The breakdowns aren't bad, but we can all agree that metalcore is a slowly dying (if not already dead) genre, and excessive breakdowns is often an excuse to beat the dead horse.
Overall, Aechoes shows potential. Whether it be the vocals or fun rhythms, I believe they can hone these components to make an even better sophomore effort. However, Aechoes suffers from the "Risecore Syndrome", which I can hope they can be cured from and create some fantastic tunes.