Review Summary: Looking down at those who dare to challenge thee.
It’s interesting to see the evolution of a band such as Within the Ruins. Starting out as one trick band (that trick being wanky guitars), they’ve slowly built their way up the metaphorical metalcore ladder. When Phenomena
hit, Within the Ruins found themselves on the top rung, busting out tune after tune, and becoming incredibly self-aware of their ‘guitar-wankery’ and embracing it, building monumental tracks around groovy guitars and heavy bass lines. They wrote a song that sounded like the Super Mario tune for Christ sake, and it didn’t sound cheesy! So as we move on to nearly fifteen years of groove, Halfway Human
arrives on our doorstep, proving once and for all that the quartet are top of the game, sick solos and all.
is a slightly different endeavour for the band this time around; it looks to incorporate more variety into its mix, with the addition of clean vocals and guitar solos throughout the 52-minute runtime. But don’t think your favourite meatheads have gone soft on you. If anything, the bandmates continue to prove their knack for duelling guitars, inhuman drum playing, and groove-tastic bass lines. What’s most interesting about this, however, is its ability to continually sound fresh. Each solo brings forth a new idea, full of texture and, well, fun
. “Shape-Shifter” kicks off the album, full of jumpy-chugs, high-end notes, heavy bass lines and an ever-present vocal performance from Tim Goergen. Perhaps his most realised performance to date, his incredible range pays dividends throughout the album, as its prowess shines through on the album without becoming distracting or over-saturated. His high-low performance on “Bittersweet” is a highlight, mixing incredibly well with the back and forth the guitars provide throughout the track.
What’s most impressive, however, is how the instrumentals sound so incredibly fresh without overstaying their welcome. With metalcore typically being a limited genre in terms of creativity and variety, Within the Ruins contradict this notion, pumping out such incredible tracks it’s hard to pick specifics to touch on. Going back to “Bittersweet”, the track brings forth a fantastic breakdown two-thirds into the song, before everything else slows down and lets Joe Cocchi just shred to his content. Instead, however, he plays one of the more reserved solos off the album, proving his incredible self-awareness of when to just let the emotion flow through something more laid-back and purposeful. As the band has grown, so too has his playing, and it shows on every track; every riff, lick and chug has the perfect amount of weight and substance to make it a standout performance.
And the amazing performances don’t stop there. The ever-present backbone of Within the Ruins, long-time drummer Kevin “Drummer” McGuill and newcomer Paolo Galang on bass provide the perfect background for a standout forefront performance. If anything, however, their ability to maintain such a strong spine for the rest of the Within the Ruins body is their greatest strength, letting the guitar do whatever the hell it wants. The addition of cleans from Paolo are nothing to pass over either; they’re placed strategically throughout the album to provide some variance, particularly on “Objective Reality”.
And the backend of Halfway Human
certainly holds up to the front; “Absolution”, “Sky Splitter” and “Treadstone” add more absolute bangers from an album already choc-full of them. And, of course, no Within the Ruins album is complete without an Ataxia track; the much loved instrumental saga returns in “Ataxia IV”, and provides another standout performance. Although it doesn’t quite top the hero vs villain fight that was “Ataxia III”, it sure as hell gets close. Bouncy guitars, symbol-laden drums and a slight orchestral touch that picks up throughout the track, it adds a memorable instrumental to an already-synonymous saga of them.
Although “Ataxia IV” should’ve been the final track of the album, it is but a minor qualm for a near-perfect metalcore album. Halfway Human
, for all of its many strengths, proves mainly that Within the Ruins are not only at the top of their game, but the top of the genre. Having spent years mastering their craft, they have released what may be their best yet, with more explosive guitar layers, powerful vocals, and an ever-present spine of drums and bass. Their ability to keep fresh without resorting to cheesy tactics is something to be admired. And if anyone dare challenge Within the Ruins for their crown, then they better be at their best, because there’s little that can stop them now.
Recommended Tracks: Beautiful Agony, Bittersweet, Objective Reality, Absolution, Ataxia IV