Review Summary: While there are some weaknesses, this is a very strong debut release from a young band that, like a fine wine, will only improve with age
Australia is quickly becoming a major force in underground music, so much so that the very term “underground music” is itself becoming redundant. With a solid foundation laid down by Jack Napier, ShotPointBlank and I Killed The Prom Queen which served as a launching pad for the rise of The Amity Affliction, Confession and, most notably, the almost obscene global success of the juggernaut that is Parkway Drive. The rise in popularity of these bands is such that you simply cannot attend any concert in Australia (metal or otherwise), or even just walk down the street without seeing someone walking around sporting a Parkway or Amity shirt.
This has led to the underground music scene becoming much more acceptable in the public eye. No longer are these entire genres being hidden away like a ratty old blanket when the in-laws come to visit. This change of events has, in turn, laid down a platform for a new generation of underground metal bands to come forth and claim some slice of success. Dream On, Dreamer have toured internationally and Northlane in particular have become a national touring force in less than a year.
This is where For All Eternity come into it.
For All Eternity have carved themselves out a little niche as Australia’s premier Christian metal band and have managed to secure a large number of tours with international bands such as Oh, Sleeper, The Devil Wears Prada, For Today and MyChildren MyBride. They have used these tours to forge a national presence and to provide a market for this, their debut LP.
Beyond The Gates.
Put simply, this is one of the most impressive debut metalcore albums in recent memory. Yes, the chug-a-lug breakdowns are present, there are gang vocals, the sing-a-longs are there with the high-pitched Americanised clean vocals, the music is technical and full of polyrhythms and the bass is basically inaudible for the entire record.
However, this is a record reminiscent of the beginnings of the metalcore movement of the early-to-mid 2000s. The above features are all utilised extensively, but the key issue to bear in mind is that they are all used in a way that lends itself to each individual song in a way that makes the record stand as a whole while also allowing each song to remain recognisable and memorable, and the whole thing is down to the structure of each song. The album is pieced together in a way that tries to differentiate and distance itself from the rest of the metalcore pile and it does so with aplomb. The only other metalcore album in a very long time that demanded this much attention was last year’s massive hit, Northlane’s “Discoveries” album.
The August Burns Red-worship is obvious here, as the order of the day is polyrhythms with tasteful and melodic guitar leads nooding over the top of the drums, bass and rhythm guitars. The best example of this is found in the track “Solid Ground” and about 30 seconds in to “The Wide Path”. The furious fret work of Jeremy Mosiejczuk is both melodic and tasteful and is extremely reminiscent of JB Brubaker’s performance on August Burns Red’s “Constellations”. The utilisation of guitar melodies over breakdowns, rather than simply having the lead chug along with the rest of the band, is a frequent and pleasant component of the For All Eternity sound. The key word in the guitar work is RESTRAINT. Its extremely refreshing to have a guitarist who is perfectly capable of shredding a solo all day if he so wished but who, like a boxer waiting for the knockout punch, instead opts to keep those moments to a minimum so as maximise their impact.
The bass is, as is often lamented about modern heavy albums, almost completely lost in the mix for the entirety of the album. However, it serves the same purpose as in every other metalcore album of the last ten years: a quiet achiever. It doesn’t try to outshine the guitar (as seen in every single Tool album since Justin Chancellor joined), nor does it end up having to drive the melody because the guitars are on such a different planet to the rest of the music (again, as seen in every single Tool album since Justin Chancellor joined). It serves the purpose it was built for: to translate for the drummer and provide a low end for the mix. It’s the quiet achiever that resides in every workplace. There are always more popular and more successful attention-seekers at the front getting all the glory, but take it away and you quickly notice its absence.
The drums are very hard to define. Polyrhythms are once again the order of the day, and on the surface they may seem to be stereotypical of modern metal i.e. as fast and technical as possible at all times but lacking in any sort of real depth or substance. In reality, this simply isn’t the case. These drums are actually very interesting to listen to if you know what to listen to. Michael Buckley is fantastic at playing at a variety of tempos and time-signatures but there is so much more than that to his style. His use of the snare rim in the outro of album highlight “Awake To The Sound” is both tasteful and interesting to listen to, his kick blasts during “Solid Ground” are so fast they would make Shannon Lucas blush and his snare-and-kick work in the melodic lull of “Broken Hands” is technical enough to give Tomas Haake a run for his money. When taken into account the fact that he does all this while simultaneously delivering soaring clean vocals that perfectly complement and contrast Shane Carroll’s simply monstrous roars and screams (more on those in a minute), the resultant effect is simply mind-blowing.
While Buckley provides the garnish, Carroll brings the beef. His low vocal style is very similar to Winston McCall of Parkway Drive, which is best witnessed in the opening salvo of “The Wide Path”, while his highs sound like a demon rising out of the abyss, particularly the opening vocals of “Awake To The Sound”. Put simply, the man is a beast, and his vocals combined with Buckley’s cleans and drums provide an anchor for the rest of the band to cling to.
Past all of that, there is one very unique track that deserves special mention. The title track is a contemporary Christian ballad that wouldn’t be out of place on a Planet Shakers of Hillsong United album. While some will lament the fact that this is merely the band trying to get more exposure in churches and religious groups in general and the lyrical content is cheesy and overly religious, the fact remains that a keyboard-driven worship song doesn’t feature on many metal albums and it takes some serious stones to include such a comparably-mellow track on such a balls-to-the-wall album. That deserves respect.
Finally, the lyrical content. For All Eternity are a self-confessed and self-proclaimed Christian metal band and the lyrics reflect that. This is an album that has an extremely strong Christian-oriented theme running through the lyrics—-in fact, the entire album is a man’s journey from the depths of despair in the first half of the album to the realisation of Christ’s eternal salvation and the Hope that can be found in Him. This will undoubtedly divide listeners, but frankly, to release an album as openly and honestly Christian in this day and age is a very (forgive the term) ballsy act and one that deserves, if not agreement or conversion, at least respect. Respect for standing by their passionate beliefs, and it is a passion that vibrantly resonates throughout this record in a manner that is evident for all to see, like the proverbial city on a hill.
In closing, this is, at first glance, the typical Christian metalcore album: insipid lyrics about complete despair, loss, a second chance and ultimate redemption, chug-a-lug breakdowns, br00tal roars and high, whiny cleans. The Underoath comparisons will also come thick and fast due to the singing drummer. However, look a little deeper, listen with an open mind and give it a chance. You may just find a real little gem in this album.