Review Summary: BTBAM's first release showcases the heaviest music they've created. Filled to the brim with brutality, their prog-like elements shine through, only not nearly as refined.BTBAM
is a band that defines genre standards. Not brutal enough to be death metal, not unique enough to be progressive, and their musical abilities put them enough above metalcore, they lack a solid sound that can be described in one way. The S/T shows a more straight-forward death metal style, unlike their more recent releases, like the landmark The Silent Circus
which broke them through to a wider audience. Since then, they've released two other monsters; Alaska
. While these three generally get the credit they deserve, they have long overshadowed their first release. Lacking the over-done show-offish shredding of Paul Waggoner's and the tackiness of the Mr. Bungle-style breaks, it still holds some elements of their modern selves.
Songs like album opener More of Myself to Kill
have instrument passages into their thick death metal-style riffs and drumming. The vocals, like all of their releases so far, are largely hit-or-miss. More high-pitched than their recent efforts, they are uneven at times, and very throaty. The guitars, as always, are a very high point on the album. Paul Waggoner is a monster guitarist and his talents, though not as prevalent on the S/T, still shine through. His sweeping is incredible, and the riffs technical. The drums are solid, though often overlooked. Swift blast beats and fills set a very harsh backdrop for each song.
Another thing to note is the song structures. Hinting at future releases, they show almost no form or figure – following no set path. Flowing from a grinding passage to a melodic section, rarely are two sections of a song repeated. Aspirations
is a perfect example of this. Featuring Paul's signature guitar, it starts with a smooth riff, and then flows straight into some death metal. Then, a minute and fifteen seconds in, they shift gears yet again with a nice melodic section and a guitar solo (though not the incredibly technical sweeping found on later tracks). At two minutes and twenty seconds in, the guitar solo breaks into very technical guitar work from Paul, and the vocals soar high (and they aren't even cheesy) for the middle of the track. Soon after, a slower death metal section plays out, with some smooth riffs. Four minutes in, their melody finally shines through. Similar to Mordecai
, they break the heaviness with a well-placed transition. But, let's not get our hopes up as Paul's guitar yet again sweeps out into the thick brutality that lays ahead, finishing the song.
Following the highlight of the album, Aspirations
, is a What We Have Become
. Opening with some very thick vocals from Tommy, it showcases the drumming side. At two minutes, Paul and Will switch from the dense death metal to a more melodic style four times back and fourth in twenty seconds, then kick back into gear with more heaviness. Soon after, the end comes to a close with a fitting section of calming guitar. Kicking into gear after that, Fire From a Dry Mouth
brings the brutality back. Featuring six minutes of bone-crushing, in-your-face metal, it never relents. Naked by the Computer
opens up with some soothing guitar, and the one minute mark hits and the drums and bass kick in. Still featuring the melody of the beginning, it ends at two minutes, when Tommy comes in with his distinctive voice, and the members bring it up a notch. Around five minutes, the drummer Will starts singing. The guitar sounds eerie, yet the vocals are very cheesy.
The only really sub-par song on the album is Use of a Weapon
. It seems to be more similar throughout the entire song, dragging on, copying very well the previous heavy elements, but keeping them the same. It seems to be a track where they have run out of ideas, or one where their creativity seems to lack. Though any doubts the CD might fizzle out at the end quickly shrivel up as the CD reaches the 9-minute plus epic that is Shevanel Cut a Flip
. Opening with their signature, thick, heavy death metal style, it provides a better look at the drumming. More technical and swift than before, the drumming really makes the beginning of the song stand out. At a minute and twenty seconds in, a transition comes (though not as tacky as the ones on Colors
, it still is a little out of place) to a slower paced style, yet still retaining their heaviness. Speeding up a few moments later, Paul begins his crazy guitar work. The song hits the three minute and forty second mark and moves into a perfect ending to the record. A very lengthy ending, it features very soothing guitar and drum work; an almost opposite contrast to their earlier sound. The vocals come in at around the five minute mark, and sound like the earlier song Aspirations
. The only downside to the ending is its repetitiveness. Five minutes of the same guitar does get annoying.
All in all, BTBAM
up the ante of metalcore-influenced death metal by bringing their own unique style and Paul's untouchable guitar abilities. Faults show themselves clear, though, as the heavy parts get overdone and repetitive, while some guitar riffs seem to be recycled from earlier songs. Most songs could sound similar if not for the extra twist put in each song. Overall, the album hints at their progressive elements in later albums while retaining a style that has failed to been replicated successfully. A solid release by a band that has yet to release a bad (even mediocre) record.
Shevanel Cut a Flip