Review Summary: Believe it or not, metalcore's new underdog hero is French, and they can definitely kick your ass.
Modern metalcore is in an interesting position at the current time. On one hand, you have the remnants of the old guard--mainly Converge and Zao, the latter of the two having made a pleasing return to prominence--playing the classical style of the genre, evolving just enough to keep up with contemporaries. Then you have the new kids on the block trying to mimic the greats while adding a bit of their own tricks (think Seizures’ The Sanity Universal
); the ones that imbue progressive metal into their albums (see: The Afterimage, Napoleon); and the more fashionable, mainstream product that most metalcore detractors make reference to (hint: the one with all the breakdowns). Outside of these fairly broad categories, there still remains a variety of niche classifications that have carved out a small following amidst a sea of competing bands. What the listening audience is left with is a potpourri of influences, methods, and sounds swirling about inside the scene, giving one plenty of options depending on their preferences. However, as I’ve stated countless times before, this expansive music market makes it increasingly more difficult to sort out the gems from the dime-a-dozen copycats. An audiophile’s journey can be so twisting and obscure that they may suddenly end up in France and facing the sonic output of one of the genre’s most promising new members.
Unless one is consistently prowling through the depths of bandcamp, Zapruder might as well be invisible. The Poitiers-based collective have little to no acclaim or exposure of any kind. In modern metalcore conversations--the stereotypical ones where fans bemoan the state of it--Zapruder are never mentioned as a counterpoint. It sounds cliché to use the expression “You don’t know what you’re missing,” but in the case of these criminally unknown and underrated Frenchmen, it is absolutely warranted. Although modestly self-described as playing the wonderful genre of “post-thing,” Zapruder are so much more. Blending that trademark Dillinger Escape Plan chaos with a sludgy, post-metal vibe that would have Knut and Bleak standing up in applause, Zapruder’s first album, Fall In Line
, is nothing short of a massive triumph.
The thing most immediately noticeable from Fall In Line
is that the band behind it are very willing and able to try something different every track they lay down. Take, for instance, the ending of “Cyclops,” which devolves into a loud and heavy central riff, slowly marching forward while a saxophone wails in the background. Or the midway section in “Modern Idiot,” where the song embarks upon a jazzy instrumental break backed by the bass and interrupted by the vocalist’s frantic, visceral screams. With songs like “Monkey On My Back,” the boys even engage in some post-hardcore parts, the guitar weaving through technical passages effortlessly, leading up to a conclusion that has everything dissolve into static and dissonance, plunging the listener into the delirium expressed in the lyrical content. Surprisingly, the audience is even treated to soft, smooth clean vocals in the acoustic-dominated “Loquele.” Beyond this experimentation, which thankfully comes in spades, the gang is more than happy to throw a viewer in the middle of a characteristic metalcore rocker. The melodic, intricate compositions on the opener “We Are Orphans” certainly rival the controlled-disorder of other acts, while the explosive finale of “Doppelganger” is sure to have one headbanging until their neck snaps in half.
Although the tunes included on Fall In Line
are beautifully and carefully assembled on paper, the performances of each involved member make them possible in reality. The aforementioned vocalist is a force to be reckoned with, having the capacity to leap from crushing lows to powerful highs whenever he wants. The bass is gratefully given a voice inside the clean production quality; though subdued, it still maintains a presence that adds that “just right” amount of intrigue to the songs or supplies more heaviness to support the guitar riffs. Those melodies and grooves naturally serve as the central pillar of Zapruder’s sound; as demonstrated throughout the record’s runtime, the guitar can be utilized for pounding post-metal parts (the latter portion of “Moloch”) and can be completely in-your-face aggressive and perfectly spastic. Like true “mathcore” artists, the Frenchmen contain all the pandemonium so that every single second of their musical construction is memorable despite its outward bedlam. Pushing everything forward within these structures is the furious drumkit, delivering a hefty punch to the listener’s eardrums in every track. To add the icing on the cake, Zapruder have a designated participant that fulfills the role of clarinet player, sax player, and “Mad Guy.”
Given the album’s content, I believe it’s fair to assume everyone
involved in the making of Fall In Line
is mad. The realm that the gents in Zapruder reside in is intense, loud, and populated by runaway guitar riffs. If nothing else, this domain gives the Poitiers gentlemen a near-unrivaled command over the genre marriage of post-metal and metalcore. When the crew wants to speed along and rush the audience using abrasive, destructive guitar-and-bass interplay, they do just that. When they want to slow things down and methodically pound the listener to the ground, they have unquestionably no trouble doing so. Put simply, the sprawling (and possibly infinite) metalcore underground has brought forth a hybrid that might as well be considered a modern masterpiece. Stacked alongside colleagues, Zapruder’s opus stands high above the competition, and may very well be a beacon of hope in the modern scene.