Review Summary: An excellent new EP from a band that could very well be the next big extreme metal act in a few years. Look for their 2005 full length debut entitled The Cage of Existence if you like this EP as well.
Los Angeles is not particularly known for its extreme metal scene. Aside from the 80’s hair metal explosion (which wasn’t really metal to begin with) and the steadily growing hardcore presence, the pickings have been slim for a true heavy metal act. But just as all hope seemed lost for metalheads in the City of Angels, Cerberus has emerged from the suburbs to claim the throne of L.A.’s best underground metal band. Fusing the best elements of At the Gates’ patented melodic death metal, Metallica’s classically influenced thrash, and Lamb of God’s pounding New Wave of American Heavy Metal into a solid structure of blast beats, dynamic solos, and even a few original breakdowns, Cerberus has crafted a sound that could very well catch the American metal scene off guard within the next few years.
The synthesized beginning of the opening track, “Falling Empire,” serves as sort of a false start. While the intro sounds like the opening notes of so many old school Norwegian black metal bands, the only elements Cerberus has in common with the genre are the occasional tremolo picked riff and refined blast beat. Speaking of blast beats, it is important to clarify that What Have We Become? showcases some of the best drum work of any album I have heard this year, whether it was released on a major label or not. The crash cymbals beautifully accent the melodic riffs, the double bass blasts frantically, and the bells are played better and faster than Lamb of God’s own Chris Adler, which is truly a feat in itself. To think that this kind of percussive mastery is coming from a band formed a mere six years ago in the suburbs of L.A. is astounding. Drummer Roger Watson just might be the next big thing in extreme metal drumming. Check out the killer, multi-limbed cymbal work on “In Contempt” if you doubt his skill behind the kit.
With all of the powerful drumming swirling around this album’s soundscape, it is somewhat of a disappointment that the twin guitarists aren’t quite up to par. While Lanny Perelman and lead guitarist Sean Olk’s chords are undeniably melodic, and their occasional solos suitably theatric, the six stringers could use some work in the verse riffing department. A heavy dose of harmonics is just what the doctor ordered for this duo. While the guitar work certainly shreds throughout the EP’s second track, “Obsidian,” Perelman and Olk need only a tad more originality in their riffing to become a truly great guitar team.
With a little more refinement, Cerberus could easily beat Lamb of God at their own game with their next full length follow up to this short but sweet showcase of the quintet’s planned attack on the state of extreme metal as we know it. If nothing else, the band will surely be an outlet for American metal’s next drum deity. This budding act comes heartily recommended.