Review Summary: This has got to be everything you wanted.
I remember the very first time I tuned into Headbanger’s Ball as a kid: from King Diamond singing sweet nothings to Satan, to the performance and “OH MY GOD RANDY BLYTHE!!!” video for Overkill’s “Skull and Bones”, twelve-year-old me loved most of the popular heavy groups of the time. None of them stuck with me nearly as much as a simple clip of a family in a black void, around a dinner table, wearing cow skulls and eating handfuls of pills and money. By this point, I was aware of the sway Underoath had over the popular metal scene; something about the band on my television screen, however, seemed far more desperate and frantic in their delivery of much the same message and style. The song was “Vices Like Vipers”, and the band was Oh, Sleeper. Since that album, When I Am God, Oh, Sleeper has largely stuck to the typical mosh4christ conventions: a caustic hardcore-influenced vocalist, auto-tuned cleans for the choruses, aimless sweeping and tapping, electronic “remix” sounds, and, of course, weak songs held together by breakdown after breakdown. With 2011’s Children of Fire, Oh, Sleeper finally broke free of the mold of their influences; with The Titan, Oh, Sleeper has finally cemented their own special imprint on the sound.
“Naofumi Mitsuhashi” immediately brings to our attention Micah Kinard’s newfound vitriol. In the past, Oh, Sleeper has typically used the intensity of Micah’s voice as a crutch, making up for the lack of direction in most songs; now his hardcore shrieks and occasional husky bellows sound both more mature and complementary to the music. Guitarist Shane Blay has improved drastically as a singer as well; no longer under the Solid State umbrella, Blay is allowed to break the whiny mold and sing in a bit more of a mid-range voice, ironically providing far more passion to the choruses and bridges. Even the backing vocals have improved; while sparse in delivery and rather low in the mix, the wordless croons add emotional depth to the calmer sections of the songs, while the gang vocals add an appropriately punky edge to the EP. Elsewhere, Shane’s typically technical guitar flourishes stand out more than they have before, enhancing the frantic pace of the songs without entirely deconstructing the songwriting; and the rhythm section of Nate and Zac moves forward as one cohesive unit, providing a viciously tight backdrop to Micah and Shane’s constant battle for the spotlight. And while not necessarily new for the band, the occasional electronic elements actually play in the album’s favor for once: every extra bit of synthetic distortion and piano background adds to the feel of how modern metalcore sounds in 2013, fitting for the futuristic dystopia presented as the concept of the album (admittedly rather difficult to determine from the typical hardcore anti-social/society lyrics). This all culminates in “The Rise”, perhaps Oh, Sleeper’s best since “Vices”; from the tribal intro quietly fading in Micah and the rest of the band, to Shane’s explosively intense tapping over the refrain of “if you can hear this you’re the hope of our mission”, “The Rise” appeals to its listeners at a personal level, thrusting them right in the front of a live set from the comfort of an iPod.
I’m not exactly sure what happened to metalcore in the past three years since I abandoned it, but with releases like One Wing, Absent Light, All We Love We Leave Behind, and Rescue and Restore, the scene is thriving stronger than it did in ’99. It is nice to see, then, that with Underoath’s massive hold over the genre dying alongside the band, that little Christian band I’ve worshipped since junior high has finally realized their strengths and is able to stand tall amongst its contemporaries in this consistently exceptional era of heavy music.