Review Summary: Stronger songwriting is ultimately let down by too much repetition.
On paper, Divine Heresy has a lot of potential. Any band containing ex-members of Fear Factory
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should be great, if not phenomenal – especially considering the fact that this particular band has Dino Cazares on guitar, Tim Yeung on Drums and Joe Payne on bass. Instead, their debut album turned out to be two-dimensional and mindless. It suffered from poor songwriting, redundant riffs and a general lack of focus. Due to this, when word got out that the band would be returning with their sophomore album and a new vocalist, the question that had to be asked was whether or not they would finally fulfill their potential. The answer turns out to be an easy “no”, but they’ve at least taken a few steps in the right direction.
The main step is the inclusion of a new vocalist, Travis Neal. Travis still delivers his lyrics in a hoarse, hardcore shout (albeit a bit higher pitched than his predecessor) but his clean vocals fit the music a lot better. The band’s previous vocalist could definitely sing but his voice always seemed better suited for a top-40s metal band. This issue resulted in quite a few choruses that felt out of place on the debut, but that isn’t a problem this time. Travis’ clean vocals contain enough of a gritty edge to allow for catchy choruses that also meld seamlessly with the crushing musical onslaught. In addition to his clean vocals, his shouts and yells are also much more varied and this is an album that needs all of the variation that it can get.
Anyone familiar with Dino’s style of precision, machine-like riffing understands that variation is always in short supply but he does seem to be branching out. The main focus of this album is still the rapid, industrialized riffs that remain locked in with the double bass but there is also the rare surprise. One such surprise is the occasional use of guitar solos which are fairly melodic without any needless shredding. In fact, interspersed throughout the wall of power chords and double bass is actually an undercurrent of subdued melody that helps differentiate the songs from one another as well as provide a memorable nuance. On “Letter to Mother” that melodic edge gets moved to the forefront with a few quick guitar harmonies that lend the song an additional distinction missing from the rest of the album. The other unique song is the power ballad, “Darkness Embedded”, which alternates between mellow verses and harder choruses. The true shocker is that unlike most of Dino’s past attempts at mellow songs, this one isn’t boring.
Despite a few distinctive songs, a stronger vocalist and better songwriting this album ultimately suffers from too much of the same thing. The band’s lack of true variation leads to an album that doesn’t really have a lot of long-term potential as it begins to grow old after only a few listens. The end result is an album that can only be taken in small doses without feeling stale. Within those small doses, though, are songs that simply crush with a wall of strong riffs locked in with unrelenting double bass, and accentuated by memorable choruses and an undercurrent of melody. Unfortunately with Dino making an attempt to regain the Fear Factory moniker, we may never get to see a third album that continues to build on the band’s strengths but at least they went out strong (if just a little too repetitive).