Review Summary: Bury Tomorrow breathe new life into a dying sub-genre.
Following up 2012's 'The Union of Crowns' was never going to be easy for UK's 'Bury Tomorrow'. An album that had metalheads all around the country predicting big things for the metalcore outfit. During the build up to their third effort, frontman Daniel Winter-Bates was making bold claims on behalf of his bandmates, saying that 'Runes' was going to be "much heavier and faster than anything we've done before." The band have also stated they feel they can "fly the flag" for metalcore as a whole. It's a sub-genre that's been on something of a downward spiral for a while now, but perhaps these chaps from Southampton can see to that.
There were a lot of eyes, or ears, on this record from the get-go, so whenever 'Man of Fire' boots off in style you can be excused for brandishing a grin upon your face and even for the occasional bang of the head. You see, people berate metalcore all the time but in actual fact there are a lot of people out there who are desperate to see it return to form. Back in 2005 when bands like 'Killswitch Engage', 'Bullet For My Valentine' and 'Trivium' appeared on the scene the metal world in its entirety received a much needed shot in the arm. Sure this particular style of heavy music isn't going to be to everyone's taste but what Bury Tomorrow do with this album is show everyone that when it's done right, metalcore can still deliver a full-force sucker punch.
This band have always been praised for the strength in its pair of vocalists. While rhythm guitarist Jason Cameron's clean vocals have always been an admirable part of the group, it's Daniel who delivers quite possibly his greatest performance to date in the harsh vocal department. His range is truly superb and something any metal frontman in the business can approve of. There's also a new lead guitarist on the scene in the form of Kristan Dawson, following the departure of Mehdi Vismara. Fear not though for Kristan proves to be a more than capable replacement with a smattering of technically impressive riffs throughout the album, but it's the way the whole band have grown that's impressive. Bury Tomorrow have released two fairly solid albums, 'The Union of Crowns' in particular, but the song-writing on 'Runes' has really taken this band to the nest level. There's still all of the flowing melody that's been there since the beginning but the heavier sections on here truly stand head and shoulders above a lot of other bands in the scene. The breakdowns are not only timed better but executed in a far superior manner. They don't feel forced, a lot of time when a band introduces a breakdown you can almost picture them sitting around in the studio going, "Well, we've done two choruses now...I guess it's breakdown time. Drummer, hit that china crash! Guitarists, chug to your heart's content!"
From the stomping heaviness of 'Our Gift' and 'Garden of Thorns' to the singalong moments found on lead single 'Man on Fire' and 'Another Journey' it's clear to anyone who comes across this record that the band have improved (so long as they've heard their previous work obviously). There's even moments that came as welcome surprises, see the last minute and a half of 'Watcher' for instance. This is by no means a perfect album though, and Bury Tomorrow still have areas they can improve on. For example, there doesn't need to be clean vocals so often on the album. It's something that's been pointed out on their previous work and it's still present here, Cameron is a great vocalist but sometimes you just want to hear Winter-Bates growling until the end. There are one or two forgettable tracks on here as with just about every metalcore album ever, but in truth, these problems are almost irrelevant when put up against the rest of what Runes has to offer. Even from an artistic point of view this record has something to it other than the music itself. Each track on here draws inspiration from it's own runic symbol, they can be represented by the rune and that gives each song it's meaning.
Now at this point I should be honest. I doubted Bury Tomorrow's ability to top their last album, but after hearing this and listening to it numerous times since it's release over a year ago, I have no quarrels whatsoever with the band's belief that they can fly the flag for metalcore. In fact, I think they're just about there.