Review Summary: A metalcore album of originality, technicality, and intensity
Metalcore; a genre generally criticized for its generic sound and formulaic song structure almost every band of the style follows. Although a metalcore band, Oh, Sleeper stands out from the crowd with their originality and technicality. Improving upon the sound of their previous album Son of the Morning
, Oh, Sleeper craft the masterpiece known as Children of Fire
. Filled with exploding distorted riffs, mixed harsh and clean vocals, and an underlying conceptual story, the album is exhilarating from start to finish.
Beginning with “Endseekers,” Oh, Sleeper shows their ability to create hard-hitting riffs tinged with haunting dissonance, only to be followed by pummeling drums and bass complimented by Shane Blay scaling along the frets in the verses. Songs like “Shed Your Soul” display the utter chaos of the band’s aggression, following a 2-3-4-3-2 beat with constant double bass and technical riffing under the reign of Shane Blay and James Erwin. Although prominently aggressive at every waking moment, Oh, Sleeper utilizes the aspects of cleaner guitars as in the opening of “Hush Yael,” giving a false sense of “safety” from chaos. What gives Children of Fire
the original sound is the mixture of the expected metalcore sound as stated above along with the meshing of other genres. Experimenting with an almost industrial metal sound, “The Family Ruin” relies on synths mixed with bass in the verses to be accompanied by intense guitars in the choruses and bridge. Whenever not relying on aggression for their style, Shane Blay takes the spotlight on the acoustic ballads “The Conscience Speaks” and “Means to Believe,” using strings and guitar to create a break from the fury of the album.
Upon taking closer analyzation into the album, each member succeeds at each of their roles, resulting in the magnum opus of the band’s discography. Shane Blay persistently performs interestingly off-sounding riffs, often playing in a scale which creates a haunting sound found throughout the duration of “Shed Your Soul” and the choruses of “Chewing the Stitch.” Supporting Blay are Nate Grady (bass) and James Erwin (rhythm guitar), crafting hard hitting riffs to follow the tails of Blay’s fret scaling, complimenting his guitar work in songs like “Claws of a God.” Taking on the role of drums, Zac Mayfield uses speed and technicality to progress the album along. Whether performing chaotically in songs like “Shed Your Soul” or “The Marriage of Steel and Skin,” or keeping a tight double bass groove in songs like “Dealers of Fame,” Mayfield shows his skills in vast ways.
Although the album exhibits phenomenal instrumentation, the vocals are what really make Oh, Sleeper stand out. Seamlessly meshing harsh and clean vocals, Children of Fire
showcases juxtaposition among the different vocal melodies. While Micah Kinard screeches his screams of anger across the different tracks, Shane Blay retaliates with beautiful vocals reaching higher melodies against the harsh lows. Micah Kinard takes the spotlight in “Shed Your Soul” with his best screaming performance of the album, displaying fierce growls and an undeniably insane breakdown scream. On the other hand, Blay takes the forefront with the beautiful melodies of “Means to Believe,” instead filled with harmonies rather than intensity.
Underneath the vocals lies a conceptual story following the ending of Son of the Morning
. Revolving around a priest and his atheist daughter, Children of Fire
expresses the story of these two after the apparent death of both God and Satan and their journey in the life after the intense battle detailed in “The Finisher” from the previous record. Their journey is filled with doubt, fear, denial, and even conversion of faith as they experience a life without “supreme authority.” The ability to create such a musically impressive album with a concept is quite impressive and something you don’t see very often in the genre.
Now, to clear this up, this album is not a 5 because it is perfect, but rather because it’s an album I cannot get tired of. Every time I return to the album, I enjoyed just as much as the first time I listened to it. Oh, Sleeper’s creation is full of intensity and subtle quite moments that make for a truly unforgettable experience. From the brooding atmosphere of “Endseekers” to the triumphant sound of “Children of Fire” the album remains consistent from beginning to end. Children of Fire
stands out as one of the best in the metalcore genre and remains one of my personal favorite albums of all time.