Review Summary: A solid album, to say the least. While lacking some of the intricacies of bands such as DEP, EAPZ, or Converge, the slightly watered down mathcore presented just allows for a fun, if less involved, listen.
Technicality can be a cruel mistress, seeing as it can make or break a band, especially when attempted to be synthesized with a mainstream genre, such as metalcore. Into the Moat is the next contestant in the game of “sink or swim” within the mathcore genre. And, much like Ion Dissonance, The Design turns out quite enjoyable, while catering to both mainstream and the more obscure aspects of metal.
I’m not gonna lie, I had to look up the lyrics to this album in order to get a better analysis of the songwriting. But that can be considered a compliment to the musicians in the band, for I was too busy listening to the instrument work and having the vocals be a sort of percussion-based compliment to actually listen in on what the lyricist has to offer. And the lyrics really aren’t anything so special that they need to be spelled out. Yet they’re pretty good based on what many metal bands are writing these days. That being said, the vocals are right where they need to be. As in, they’re there, they sound good, and they don’t cover up the rest of the band. That, of course, is not a bad thing. Over-ambition in the vocal department could’ve easily ruined this album, making it like all other mainstream metalcore bands, by overproducing the music and washing out the instruments. That being said, the production overall is very acceptable. Raw enough to capture the power of an album such as this, but produced enough to keep it tight and direct. However, I found the use of effects on the vocals got played out after the first time it was used in “Empty Shell”, and from then on become completely superfluous.
Moving on to the main attraction, we have the instrumentalists, and they rip, as to be expected. Both writing and performance are absolutely vital to all music, but especially technical music. Into the Moat is well aware of that and achieves both aspects with finesse to spare. No, it’s not as technical or diverse as other math-structured offerings are (be it mathrock, mathmetal, etc.), but these fine young gentlemen have struck a great balance of catchy metalcore and polyrhythmic technicality. There are a LOT of breakdowns and chugging-based riffs, but so be it. It’s entertaining to have that simplistic song structure every once in a while, in my honest opinion. It even has the added bonus of staying relatively fresh because of the many approaches and variations on the conventional breakdown. It barely has any of the cliché clean riffs most bands put in every song to give the illusion of a progressive song structure. These guys know what they wanna give you, and they assume you know as well: throat punching intensity to satiate your metal thirst, but with polyrhythms and technical riffs to also make you feel like a smart metalhead as well.
The guitarist, specifically, is well attuned to what he wants, taking a basic style and playing with it to achieve diversity. However it can only go so far. The album becomes kind of a blur if listened to entirely in one whole sitting. The chinks in the armor become more apparent the longer your listening session extends. Even if this is an evolution on metalcore, it still can boil down to just a little too much repetition for my tastes. But this isn’t the sort of album one listens to as long as they would, say, Opeth or Exotic Animal Petting Zoo. The bass is usual metalcore fair, writing-wise, but props to him for keeping up and keeping the bottom end for the aforementioned guitar and drums to take the lead and shine. Which bring me to the drumming. It’s fast, it’s tight, it’s powerful. I’m not the greatest critic of drumming, but I was never really bored of listening to that kid go. The standard double bass and blast beats are present, much to my slight annoyance, but when broken up by sections with rather complex time signatures and rhythms, it’s all very pleasing to listen to.
There’s a lot to love in small bites when it comes to Into the Moat, just like many other –core bands. If you’re not absolutely bat-**** bonkers about metalcore or mathcore, treat this album like pancakes, cover them in delicious syrup (read: another favorite band), take manageable bites, and chew thoroughly, otherwise you’ll end up choking on delectable pancakes, and that’s just embarrassing.