Review Summary: A meaty thrash-meets-metalcore romp for Chris Broderick's new supergroup.
The Chris Broderick pathway through metal sure is an interesting one. From the power metal of Jag Panzer to the revitalizing thrash of Endgame
to the ill-executed radio rock of Super Collider
, Broderick has certainly put his shredder versatility on display from album to album - even if said versatility was drowned in a compositional mess on what was essentially Dave Mustaine's "take two" at Risk
. Of course, Super Collider
being the lame duck that it was, it's not hard to see why Shawn Drover (drums) elected to follow Broderick down another twist in the path.
And it certainly is a twist - at least if you're expecting Megadeth-mainstream metal or Shakespearean Jag Panzer power metal. Neither is the dominating force on Birth and the Burial
, the first release of the aptly named Act of Defiance. The group, who can effectively be damned with the "supergroup" label that's previously damned so many others, play a style of aggressive thrash-meets-metalcore that makes good, if sparse use of Broderick's melodic range and the same drum patterns Shawn Drover always plays, but maybe with a little more kick to fit the thrashier pacing.
And while there's nothing particularly flashy about Drover's drumming, there's very little that's out of place, so there's very little to complain about, though the aggressive bent to Birth and the Burial
clearly favors vocalist Henry Derek (ex-Scar the Martyr) and Shadows Fall guitarist-turned-bassist Matt Bachand, who pumps out the sort of rapid, driving lines you'd expect given his pedigree. But, when it all comes together, it means that the album feels less like a Broderick hallmark and more like another project Broderick is sitting in on.
Don't get me wrong - if we think about it, sitting in is probably the best thing for Broderick's versatility - he's an excellent player of just about any style and once again comes into something new and sounds natural playing it. It's also not as much a curveball for Chris as initial analysis might suggest - the guitarist has long professed an affinity for Meshuggah's heaviness and rhythmic mastery, though Act of Defiance doesn't quite approach the critical mass generated by Thordendal and company. But this is an album that will be perceived by most as "an album by those guys who played in Megadeth," with the spotlight on Broderick. Hopefully the group are strong enough to shrug off that stigma.
While the spotlight should more accurately land on Derek's catchy and unbounded aggression, Broderick is still responsible for layering plenty of meathead riffs on top of Bachand's pummeling low-end as well as delivering some ear-catching solos and licks, which are audible from the start of opener and standout single "Throwback." There are plenty of solid vocal hooks that keep the tracks catchy and memorable as well, though the album also suffers from a long runtime of incredibly similar material, resulting in a bad case of "what song was that""-itis.
Act of Defiance surely have a lot of potential, even if there seems to be some sort of curse to being a so-called supergroup, and Birth and the Burial
both starts off on a good foot and leaves some room for improvement. Adding a little more melodic color to the furious red that tints the album would give it a little more exciting range, cutting up some of the staleness that looms over this monochromatic outlet. We know that Broderick and his assembled companions have the chops to make this something more. But at the same time, it's impossible to say that Birth and the Burial
doesn't get its point across, and sometimes simple says it best.