Cast aside your first impressions when you hear the name Hacksaw To The Throat. Thoughts of the “super br00tal” deathcore which is imminent when a band with such a name is played should be negated. The ominous title to Oakland, California’s progressive/melodic death metal band’s second album Wastelands
isn’t really anything overly complicated, but the music which follows is surely to please all fans of technical metal. From fans of Opeth and Neurosis to Dark Tranquillity and At The Gates to Between The Buried And Me and Converge, and everywhere in between, Wastelands
consists of such an amalgam of influences and sounds it is hard to touch on each and every single one, but it is surely to please one of the broadest audiences of any metal album I’ve heard.
There are moments of complete insanity when guitar riffs are flying around like bullets in a firefight, complete with a wide vocal range of metalcore-influenced highs to death metal and grindcore lows. Pinch harmonics are added to the mix amongst the numerous (and impressive) guitar solos, before all of a sudden grinding to a halt in favor of clean guitars and light cymbal taps. In one song, you can fly through about four or five metal subgenres. The lengthy songs help to facilitate this constant shifting in tempo and intensity, and indeed it is the longer seven-plus minute songs which really shine through on Wastelands
. Many of the shorter tracks, often times being the heaviest ones, suffer from deja vu and end up paling in comparison to their longer, more varied counterparts. Don’t let that fool you, though, since many of the albums best moments are contained on these songs. The ridiculous bass lines contained here like to shine through during the verses of such tracks, letting you know that solid composition of all of the instruments was a priority.
The huge emphasis on melodic riffing helps keep things fresh and separate from some of the more straightforward chugging chords. The melodies are never cheesy or overly flamboyant, but always extremely technical and fit perfectly with the vocal arrangements. Often times, though, the riffs which will be lingering in the back of your head are the brilliant, yet simple, clean pieces which are littered among nearly every song on Wastelands
. On occasion, even piano works its way into the background, such as on “The Descent”, one of heaviest but also one of the slowest tracks on the album. Wandering guitar riffs and drawn out notes help create an immense feeling of atmosphere and melody, all the while shrieking vocals ring out above them. These riffs often slide into guitar solos which are flat out immense. Some of these solos are mind-bogglingly technical, but never feel out of place and never dominate in a way which comes off as showboating. The guitar wankery on Wastelands
is concealed with perfection amongst the heavy rhythm section and the slower portions of the album.
The brilliant instrumental “Obsidian Sun” throws the listeners a curve ball, pulling you away from the intensity of the guitar-driven songs in favor of a cunning injection of atmosphere, but also composing prowess. The brilliant piano and depressive violin rule this piece, fighting around control of the song. Not only is it a nice element of diversity (as if the album needed more), but it is also one of the best tracks on the album. The pristine production is just another added bonus. While it would have been nice to include a helping of clean vocals, Wastelands
is a fine example of what rock-solid songwriting and musicianship can do. Sure, some of the shorter songs on the album are overshadowed by it’s lengthy epics, but when you look back and take the album as the sum of its parts, not simply a collection of individual songs, you are left with a fine example of progressive death metal. There are elements which could be improved upon, but since Hacksaw To The Throat split up after this album was released, the huge potential which was held in this band will sadly remain locked away.