Review Summary: The summary has been reported missing...
It’s impossible to discuss Texas deathcore act Upon A Burning Body without alluding to the shameless publicity stunt pulled earlier this summer, in which a Facebook post related that vocalist Danny Leal had gone missing, a duo of eerie tweets in his wake, only for the group to release a statement soon after of a new album entitled “The World Is My Enemy Now”, with, coincidentally, the cover a picture of Leal tied up. It didn’t take long for fans to put two and two together, and as the result, the group became a target of immense stigma and a plethora of “missing” jokes. While this reaction is certainly warranted, it inevitably causes listeners, fans or otherwise, to approach “The World Is My Enemy Now” with a certain prejudice in this light. Here I will attempt to look through the inevitable stigma and review an album that is controversial due to its promotion. In short, although the album does not ascend the heights of the savage 2010 debut “The World Is Ours”, it trumps their lukewarm 2012 sophomore effort “Red. White. Green.”
In spite of lineup changes (it remains to be seen if Leal has returned… Heh. Couldn’t resist) in which lead guitarist CJ Johnson and drummer “Lord Cocos” Villareal left the group and Ruben Alvarez changed from bass to guitar and their temporary drumming position is filled by Tito Felix, UABB has returned to their comfortable realm of adrenaline-pumping chunky breakdowns and a bluesy southern tinge, much like their debut, but within the framework of their sophomore effort, and although imperfect, it is a fun listen.
“Red Razor Wrists” opens the album, but unfortunately proves to be the worst track here, inconsistently dabbling in electronics and full of atrocious lyrics. Continuing with “Scars”, a lukewarm track unfortunately, it becomes clear that UABB incorporates a more hard rock Slipknot-esque filter into their music, seen in the single kick drum intro and chunky riffing reminiscent of Hatebreed’s grunge influence.
The first real highlight is the fourth track, albeit the longest, is “Bring the Rain”, which brings to mind “Desperado” from “Red. White. Green.”, due to its groovy adrenaline-pumping tribal-esque structure and rock drumming during the breakdown initiated by “Thunder!” One might find that their best tracks are those that hearken back to the 2010 style, and other highlights include southern “The New Breed”, the fun chunky title track, the Latin rhythm influenced “Judgement”, and the speedy, albeit childishly titled, “Middle Finger To the World”. The track “Blood, Sweat, and Tears” also serves as a highlight, but in a new light, as it shows UABB dipping their toes in thrash influence and embracing the hard rock influence in the catchy chorus (sung by Matt Heafy of Trivium) and grunge-crusted breakdowns.
The downsides of this album are unfortunately many, however. Leal’s publicity stunt aside, he sticks to a higher scratchier vocal style and resorting to lower growls and higher screeches sparingly, a style reminiscent of The Plot In You’s Landon Tewers’ newer vocal style. While this differs from earlier albums, it has a tendency to wear thin, which is particularly disappointing, as his roar was a force to be reckoned with in previous outings. The rhythms and guitarwork take more of a focal position in this album, which is unfortunately tedious, as Sal and Ruben are not nearly as reliable in rhythm and solo as CJ was.
Lyrics are also a major downfall in this album, and arguably more so than in previous albums. Don’t get me wrong, Leal has never been a poetic master, and his work basically revolves around “badass” destructive lyrics, upfront profanity, breakdown initiations, and often a combination of the three. While the novelty factor is rampant in this album, the lyrics restrain the effect. Previous lyrics focused on “Burn[ing] this mother down” (“Carlito’s Way”), formidably challenging “F**k you, what the f**k do you believe in"” (“Desperado”), drinking a lot (“Intermission” or “Texas Blood Money”), or making absurd provocative statements like “Freedom, baby, means never having to say you’re sorry” (“Devil’s Advocate”). While all this seems incredibly childish and hedonistic, it was always in a fun and oft-hilarious way. However, the lyrics here take themselves far too seriously, often playing the role of the victim. The self-explanatory album title and title track, as well as final track “Middle Finger to the World” find Leal yelling “No more respect, no more power, the world is my enemy now!” and “with a smile on my face, I’ve got a middle finger to the world, and another one just in case…” Other tracks follow this pattern of “f**k the haters” with cuts such as “I’m not sorry for the way I am” (“Red Razor Wrists”) and “Stop forcing your standards on me, stop because I’m better than you’ll ever be” (“Scars”), while “The New Breed”, “Blood, Sweat, and Tears”, and “I’ve Earned My Time” follow the same trend. “Pledge Your Allegiance” provocatively pronounces “F**k your religion… Motherf**ker on your knees, heartless coward, soulless bastard…” “Judgement” ironically states “I will not be the victim!”
The main issue with “The World Is My Enemy Now” is the same as “Red. White. Green.”: it’s remarkably one-dimensional. While it is a novel instrumental return to the earlier chunky and groovy identity, it is merely surface level, due to the simplicity of its sound and the monotone vocal approach. Yes, the production whips out every trick up its sleeve, with wonderfully pronounced drums and thick guitar tone that leaves room for melodic overtones, but the end result is unfortunately shallow. The lyrics do not give it any favors, and the replay value is minute.
However, this is not a poor review, and Upon a Burning Body succeeds at creating a fun album that hearkens back to their earlier sound. Naysayers of this band will not be convinced of its worth, nor will many of fanbase dissenters, and the critics of the publicity stunt will undoubtedly have a few things to say about it. Certainly childish and controversial in light of the band’s actions, the album and its personnel will find plenty of criticism. But it is an adrenaline-laced ride back to 2010, and a fun one at that. The fun is there, but the substance has been reported missing…