Review Summary: Deep and heavy hardcore from an underrated band.
Converge, Coalesce, Botch and The Dillinger Escape Plan. These are the bands that any fan of hardcore, in any form of genre, will say are the standardbearers, the shining examples, the pinnacles of creativity and brilliance for these genre(s). There is a great amount of truth to this but they are also considered the hardest bands within their respective genres. However there is a band that will smash this preconception. Their name is Engineer and their latest album is the Dregs.
The first issue of note is to say where the comparisons with the four aforementioned bands should stop. Yes, they employ odd time signatures and polyrhythmic drumming. Yes, they have short songs, the longest clocking in at 4:35 and yes, they do use elements of metal within their songs. However while Dillinger have been taking the mathmatical prinicples of music to astronomical heights, Converge have been constantly genre hopping and Coalesce have been constructing ever more complex songs, Engineer have been aiming for one thing; to create the heaviest, most pissed-off hardcore they can.
Such is the case with the Dregs. It is an album, in contrast to its rather ironic title, that is built upon a formula that has been evolving through their entire discography. It is a formula that is built upon principles founded by bands such as Starkweather and Botch. As seen in previous EPs such as Suffocation of the Artisan the Botch influence is more plain to see however as the discs receded the influence has faded. Engineer took a leaf from 7 Angels 7 Plagues' book, incorporating elements of death metal within their sound. However what is made apparent by the album is this is the rawest, hardest kind of death metal, something that evens borders upon Deathgrind.
And oh how do they apply it. The basslines and guitars are deep, metallic and angry with jagged riffs pounding upon the ears. The drums match the aggression with their polyrhythmic madness. Yet all of this dissonance and anger is always offset with a hint of melody within the basslines. In comparison then this brings them closer to the powerhouse that is Cursed. However the songs upon this album reach a level of darkness and anger that even Cursed and their vocalist cannot reach because the vocalist upon this album is a monster. Where most hardcore vocalists ellicit high-pitch screams or shouts, this guy roars. From the moment he bellows "WE'VE FAILED!!" on the opening of Scale Natura, he never relents, never compromises in his power. It is something that doesn't vary within any song either but then why should it need to? The singular roar is one of the few that can truly act as measure for the depth of the band's rage and conviction.
Yet despite it's intensity it never overwhelms. Every instrument can be heard standing upon their own despite enhancing each other's aggression. The drums shift many times upon time signatures but along with the vocals they act as walls of form to contain the basslines and guitar riffs. The guitar and bass, as well, do not contain the choppy intensity that Converge and Dillinger are so well known for. The band stretch and repeat riffs to keep them in the lean, streamed structure yet they are never over-exerted. They change at just the right intervals to keep the listener interested, all within song lengths that are tight but not microcosmic in the same sense of Converge, Dillinger or Coalesce.
It is this level of thoughtfullness, cohesiveness and maturity that creates a lead block of wrathful sound that dominates the traditional walls of sound raised by so many other hardcore bands. Yet it is these same qualities that drives this band's block of brutality beyond their roote into territory that Coalesce and Botch have not tread. Simply put if you like hardcore in general, buy this. Be warned, it is not the most easy listening experience even for hardcore, but if you are prepared for that then this album will reward with an utterly intense experience beyond many others in the genre.