Review Summary: All of the technicality, ¾ of the heart.
Following the release of 2015’s Lumière, I had nothing but high hopes for the Afterimage. Within that record they’d presented an incredibly interesting take on what modern progressive metalcore could be. There were the soaring highs and emotive lyrics that subtly nodded towards bands like Dance Gavin Dance, while the instrumentation was ripped straight from the chaotic precision that bands like ERRA and Periphery wielded. What separated it the most from its peers though was the decision to experiment. There were interesting electronic samples all around the album and the pure highs of Kyle Anderson’s vocals over the dissonant guitars really created something energetic and unique. They weren’t just taking the relatively stagnant progressive metalcore genre and breathing life into it, they were painting a beautiful, albeit intentionally messy, sonic landscape. Lumière wasn’t without its flaws, but it showed some serious promise about where the band could go. If only they’d gone that route. Eve isn’t a bad record. It isn’t at all. It’s actually a great record, but that’s what’s a little disappointing. All of the precise and interesting technical instrumentation is there, but the band opted for a safer and more streamlined sound, an action which in turn killed a little of the originality that made them so interesting in the first place.
There’s still plenty to love for what the album offers, you just have to look a little deeper. The opener Aquamarine gives a pretty good glance at what the band holds dormant in their wheelhouse, waiting for an opening to ensnare the listeners in interesting electronic sampling and lush vocals. And then following the build up from Aquamarine, The Afterimage shatter any expectations and drop the three weakest tracks on the record back to back. There are a few catchy choruses scattered here and there, and a pleasant vocal feature in Amethyst, but the instrumentation is mainly just chugging, breakdowns, and typical metalcore cliches. Occasionally, The Afterimage offer glimpses towards the aggressive and chaotic technicality seen on Lumière, however for these three tracks, it’s too few and far between to really save them. Floodgates brings the listener back into the frey of interest with its fluttery guitar work that almost seems like something out of Chon. At this point, the album actually kicks into gear and reignites the spark with catchier hooks, heavier and more dynamic breakdowns, and touches of experimental flourishing here and there to compliment the overall experience. Secrets provides perhaps the best example of a working balance between the older eccentricities and a more mainstream direction towards the sound. Eve breaks up any hint at monotony with its slower speed and emotional, albeit overdone, message. And then finally, following the reprieve, Eve as an album begins to really work. The flow between Mirrors, Sapphire, Wrath, and Violator is fantastic and each of these songs might even be the album’s highlight tracks. Mirrors and Sapphire cash in on Anderson’s strong clean vocals and the aforementioned touches of fluttering electronics, whereas Wrath and Violator do as their names detail and end the album with an absolute ground-pound of brutality and mathy dissonance. It’s actually rather startling when Violator ends after an incredibly crushing breakdown and the album is just done.
Eve is an odd album because there isn’t much really wrong with it, but it’s also certainly not as impressive as its predecessor. There’s clearly still creativity and soul put into it, but Eve requires the listener to dig a bit deeper to find what makes The Afterimage so unique. Even so, it’s hardly an album to ignore just because some of the sound has been streamlined. It’s still an engaging release that shows that progressive metalcore ain’t going anywhere without at least a little bit of an argument over black skinny jeans and the authenticity of ‘djent’.