Review Summary: Metalcore and the sum of its parts
Metalcore has gone through some strange twists and turns as a genre. Not only does it have a scope of bands ranging from the raw Integrity
to the fashionable The Devil Wears Prada
, but over the years it has latched itself on to other subgenres such as math rock, creating the form of technical hardcore á la The Dillinger Escape Plan
, and even to death metal which went on to form the less-than-stellar subgenre, deathcore. But the purpose of this review isn’t to express my disgust about deathcore, nor about what the caricature of metalcore has become. Rather, I want explain what Within the Ruins
managed to achieve on this album – a well-established amalgamation of every evolution the genre has undergone, from its origins rooted in hardcore punk to the addition of thrilling technical prowess, the discordance of death metal, and even a few traits of the increasingly trendy “groove-core,” or “djent” scene (both descriptors make me dry heave) – creating not only their most interesting album to date, but also a fresh change of pace from the inspirational drought the genre has been experiencing this past decade.
Groove elements are immediately noticeable in Phenomena
’s opening tracks. ‘Gods Amongst Men’ and ‘The Other’ both have moments of crushing riffs with melodious guitar leads frolicking above them. Never before have I found it appropriate to describe riffs as “frolicking,” but in this case it seems fitting. The band’s rhythm section grasps firmly onto the basal groove of any given riff, and while these “junz” are tearing us a new one on the low end, the lead guitar (often harmonized) dances above them with a robotic stop-start precision and accompanying chorus or echo effects (a good example being the quasi-breakdown in ‘Ronin’). And this isn’t only the case with the first few songs – it’s a technique used consistently throughout the album. It can be argued that it becomes a bit too formulaic, which is true to an extent. But Within the Ruins make each riff sound distinctive enough to prevent the songs from bleeding into each other, allowing them to stand out individually, each with their own unique direction and identity.
Vocalist Tim Goergen is at the top of his game here, alternating between fierce hardcore screams and rich death growls. Ironically, though, it’s the instrumental tracks that stand out the most on Phenomena
. ‘Enigma’ toys with a Mario-esque motif and a jumpy haunted house theme comparable to Luigi’s mansion, and this is in addition to speedy double bass laden riffs and the song’s main groove that’s heavy enough to make your balls ache. The second instrumental is closer ‘Ataxia III’, which deviates from the norm by revolving around a triplet feel, and aptly concludes the album with an enduring melodic outro, tying the whole listening experience together with a shiny chrome bow.
Ultimately while other bands focus solely on being either highly technical, overwhelmingly melodic, or just heavy for the sake of being heavy, Within the Ruins prove that you can do all of the above and still make damn good music. Phenomena
isn’t exactly the saving grace the genre needed, but it’s a fun listen for anyone looking for some fresh modern metalcore, which sadly is in short supply these days.