Review Summary: ..This new ep appears to be a well crafted sop more than anything else, with the fans actually getting the short end of the stick.
Let us start from the beginning. March 8th 2012: on the After the Burial’s Youtube channel is posted a studio update, full of glowing guitars, infants (!) and new riffs, giving to the band’s fans a first glimpse of their forthcoming disc. In April 2013, after nearly eleven months that were characterized by a disturbing lack of news and an enormous amount of touring, the Minnesota based band breaks the silence by announcing two upcoming 2013 releases: a new full length, scheduled for fall, and a digital ep, “This Life Is All We Have”. Containing three re-recorded songs from their debut, 2006’s “Forging a Future Self”, this new ep appears to be a well crafted sop more than anything else, with the fans actually getting the short end of the stick.
In fact, it is really hard to not see this as a simple and profitable commercial operation. There are two strong points supporting this: the first one is the length of the ep itself, which lasts only ten minutes and forty-three seconds. To this matter, it comes spontaneous to ask why it was not decided to add more tracks to it, such as “The Forfeit” and “Forging a Future Self”, two fan – and band, as they have been played live throughout 2012 and 2013 – favorites, or the original intro “Pi (The Mercury God of Infinity)”, which had already been re-recorded once in 2011 and never got officially released. The second point is strictly economical and related to how Sumerian Records has spent the fewest amount of money possible to create this ep and tried nothing to add further value other than the three tracks contained in it. There will not be physical copies – there are no plans about it – and the only way to buy it is from three major digital retailers. The customer, after buying and downloading the release, will find inside the package the three tracks, the cover and nothing else. No booklet – at least an image with the original lyrics could have been inserted – and, furthermore, the maximum offered quality is 320 kbps; FLAC is not available and what should be the standard for digital releases has apparently been considered as an unnecessary luxury by the label.
From a musical standpoint, however, the quality of the three tracks, compared to the original recordings, is unexceptionable. Who loved the original versions will be extremely satisfied by the outcome, with a production that makes all the instruments stand out: finally the bass is hearable, the drumming sounds far better than on “Forging..” while Anthony Notarmaso’s performance on vocals is praiseworthy, with his whole range of screams, growls and squeals excellently adapted to replace Nick Weller’s vocal lines. The two guitars’ sound is well-rounded and appropriately mixed, but there is a feeling that a better work had been done on the band’s last two full lengths. As for the tracks, “A Steady Decline” and “Fingers Like Daggers” have kept their brute force intact, while “Redeeming the Wretched” - surprisingly picked for this release as it has not been played live since 2010 - remains particularly effective in its closing slot.
Ultimately, after the eleven minutes of “This Life Is All We Have”, there remains the sensation that something more could have been done. The label (and the band) should have tried to add more value to a product that, while still being objectively good, cannot be considered more than a too small appetizer for the eager fans of the band. There is nothing else to do other than patiently wait for the main dish, that untitled fourth album which, hopefully, will do the job this ep could not: filling up and satisfying the deathcore fans' appetite as much as “Rareform” and “In Dreams” did.