Yes, the big Metalcore-tide I rode a while back is kinda over. The genre seems overdone with all those bands that came out of nowhere, often very similar to each other. Which is why I do not check out as much records from the genre anymore, not if it's not one of my favorites like Heaven Shall Burn
. Sometimes I'm tempted though, like with Maroon here. It can be simple. Like spotting a poster that said band will play in a club nearby in a couple of weeks. You get curious, go to a store, and check out some of their stuff. And sometimes, you actually go home with a record in your bag, as it was just... neat.
Yes, this was one of these rare occasions. "When worlds collide" is the most recent output of the band. Don't get alienated by the goofy cover. The stuff served here really something making it more worthwhile than other new acts in this field. Like the already mentioned Heaven Shall Burn
, Maroon are one of the more well known Metalcore-ish acts from Germany, in line with Caliban
and Fear My Thoughts
. Where Caliban is more similar to Heaven Shall Burn, Maroon is more similar to Fear My Thoughts: Yes, there is a Hardcore influence noticable, but overall the Metal aspect is more stressed. Quite some songs on here have a very classic Metal-sound. This comes down to various points, foremost it's because of the guitar though. The band is not afraid of solos, and I like the guitar solos a lot I must confess. You can find some shredding here and there as well. But the overall riffage is quite metal as well. A very good example for this is the song "Sword and Bullet", which you can download for free on the bands webpage or stream here on Sputnik. For me it's also one, if not the strongest song on the whole album, and shows the essence of what Maroon are about straight and to the point.
After a short intro with a really great riff (kinda galloping forward, very nice), the song pushes forward. It's pretty much forward all the time, sometimes just a bit slower. What I really like is how the changes between quite different parts seem so effortless and fluent. This is how it should sound. The raspy shouts of singer Andre accompany it perfectly. We have a breakdown, which gives a slight break at about the half of the song, just to push forward in finest metal style afterwards. Which builds up into the pinnacle of the song: The last minute basically is a guitar solo, over the really strong main/intro riff of the song. This is as best as it can get. You'll find quite some moments like this on the record, as the band is, like I said, not afraid to get a solo into their songs. And it fits perfectly. You have to go through some downtuned guitar action with the well known *chugga chugga* riffing here and there though, so for some it might mean torture reaching the solos.
The songs usually leave no doubt from the first second onward what is the schedule for the 43 minutes playtime: kicking ass. The opener does not waste any precious time until it breaks lose, with a quite chessy line: "This is the next bloody axe to your face". *sigh* Still, the songs have subjects that are worth writing about. Social issues, politics and the like are up there on the list. Sometimes hard to understand in all the screaming though. To give some moments to relax, the band has put up some instrumentals on the list. Those are in no way comparable to the rest of the songs. They are clean guitar lines, in a way dreamy and very calm. Beautiful to be honest. It's an interesting twist, but after a couple of listens they can seem a bit out of place here and there. I mean, you get a soothing guitar line, to be welcomed to "Wake up in Hell"? Yeah, it makes one smile at first, but sometimes it's kinda weird.
We can welcome guests on this record: Mikkel Sandager of Mercenary does some vocals on "Annular Eclipse", which is quite funny, as he sings just like in his main band: Heavy Metal. It gave me an Iron Maiden moment on the first listen. Nah, drop that, it does everytime. "Annular Eclipse" is a deep sawing song, driven forward by Andres vocals, nice dual guitar chorus, all fitting well. But, when Mikkel tunes in, it gets weird. Cause suddenly this typical Metalcore tune changes into a typical Maiden like song. Turns epic, with cheesy Metal-vocals. It sure is a nice tribute to Heavy Metal. Still it's a bit out of place, and I think it will always seem that way. It brings a good portion of humor into it though. We have also the classical Hardcore represented here, in the form of Roger Miret of Agnostic Front. He does some shouting on "There is something you will never erase". I love the song, until Roger makes his appearance. The screaming sounds really forced, artificial, and barfy barky. The guy of Atreyu would be proud, I'm sure. This guest appearance is a real bummer, as it really kills a very good song for about 15 seconds. The guest appearances are not all hit, and more miss. Well, you can't have it all.
The overall musicianship is good, if not excellent. The guitars are the real shining point here, which is showcased in the various songs with solos, but also on the 5 minutes instrumental "The Omega Suite Part II". Some slight keyboards and keys can be found here and there as slight spice-up for the sound. I really like the screaming, it fits perfectly, and has substance. Not too screeching, but also not too low. Perfect middle for my taste. The drumming is also solid, but like always, the bass drowns completely. I wonder if that will ever change in this genre.
So, how can this be summed up? Maroon can be placed in the same region as Caliban and Heavan Shall Burn are: Somewhere on the border between Metal and Hardcore, with clear references to Gothenburg Melodic Death Metal (Greetings to our friends of At the gates
and In Flames
). Though the market for this genre is totally flooded, Maroon can score points with a solid combination of classic elements of Metal (like metal riffing, guitar solos) and Hardcore. It has a certain amount of catchyness, but does not get boring. Only the guest appearances and the interlude parts could pose as cons for some listeners. Especially with Caliban getting kinda soft with their most recent album, this presents a perfect alternative. Solid work, and I'm looking forward to how it compares to the upcoming Heaven Shall Burn album.