Review Summary: Taking the first shovel strike at a new foundation.
The ‘progressive metal’ tag has been stretched so far that it’s rather misleading when regarding new albums; one man’s assertion of erratic time signature shifts conflicts with one man’s perspective of “well, it’s got a violin, so that means something.” The same sort of logic transforms black metal bands into jazz artists as soon as those random saxophone solos are tacked on. Whenever an act such as The Offering is touted about as unconventional, therefore, it’s certainly worth raising a few eyebrows in skepticism. Previous misgivings notwithstanding, everyone is acutely aware at this point of the tired mantra that “originality is dead.” True or not, I’d reckon it appears so often it might as well be on a t-shirt. The odds are quickly stacked against the Boston quartet on their debut record Home
—an apt title, all things considered. Having only previously published an EP in the bygone days of 2017, this release is the collective’s first attempt at constructing a foundation, establishing the roots of an identity that can be expanded upon in the future. What follows is not especially revolutionary, though there is enough passion and creativity poured into the 50-minute journey to fill out a captivating blueprint. With one pillar firmly planted in the djent-oriented progressive camp, another entrenched in heavy metal and a third concentrated on metalcore grooves, Home rises from the ground and begins to tower above contemporaries.
Founded recently back in 2015, The Offering display confidence belying their young age as a musical group. Every track lining up the duration of Home
is thoroughly outfitted with uncannily catchy refrains and equally addicting melodies, their polished tones interspersed between intense, crunchy chugging sessions and bouncing djent riffs. Far from laying down the structure brick-by-brick, The Offering are prone to immediately charging at their audience, the varied leads of resident axeman Nishad George given substantial support by Steven Finn’s percussion kit, whose aggressive demonstrations more than match the heaviness the aforementioned member can apply. Primary single and undeniable highlight “Ultraviolence” exemplifies exactly how effective this mixture is at supplying extremely satisfying guitar lines and unforgettable choruses; a polished, melodic entrance is rapidly shoved out of the way to allow for a weighty djent portion, its adrenaline-pumping tempo and jumping nature prompting instantaneous headbanging. Even though a progressive metal riff eventually takes over, the level of engagement already crafted by this simple, albeit powerful introduction is palpable, and the momentum is never permitted to lag for an instant. Upon passing the song’s midpoint, George embarks upon explosive solos exhibiting stunning virtuosity, the end result guiding the listener towards the tune’s resonant climax that reiterates the commanding reprise.
That formula and the success it brings are definitely worth praising—“Lovesick” provides analogous excitement through its sprinting pace, the speed managed by a runaway, thunderous melody as subtle ambient additions haunt the background—it is not necessarily the status quo; “A Dance with Diana” scales back to a midtempo assault, the instrumental tunings adopting a haunting mood to suit the track’s diabolical atmosphere. In each discussed creation, a breakdown is also featured prominently halfway through, and they’re done precisely as breakdowns always should be—uncompromisingly heavy and unpredictable, its oncoming presence left unannounced until the time is ripe. However, beyond dazzling or delightfully straightforward string works and pounding drums, there lies another amazing asset in the band’s arsenal: the jack-of-all trades vocalist, Alexander Richichi. As unbelievable as it may seem at multiple moments, Richichi holds down all the styles employed on Home
, and that repertoire is anything but limited. Growls, screams, shouts, tenor high notes, screeching falsetto utterances reminiscent of King Diamond—hell, even pig vocals on occasion—are all weapons wielded by The Offering’s charismatic frontman. The finale of “Failure (S.O.S.)” features such a wide range of different deliverances that are merged together to form an awesome vocal onslaught, harsh inflections contrasted by impressive cleans.
Not every foray pans out ideally, unfortunately, and a handful of lulls hold back Home
from blossoming into a truly special product. The closing duo— “Glory” and the gargantuan 14-minute title track—lack the memorability of fellow numbers. While the eponymous song wastes a considerable amount of its lifespan in directionless meandering, “Glory” essentially has nothing of substance to set it apart from the herd, not to mention that its conclusion likewise possesses no strength. For a disc billed as ‘progressive,’ songs usually adhere to the familiar, rigid verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo strategy. And though bassist Spencer Metela is heard consistently, it takes digging to uncover his contributions due to being placed low in the production; there are obligatory “say hello to the bass player!” sections where the distinctive string device is accentuated, but they cannot make up for the comparable absence elsewhere. The overwhelming positive aspects of Home
are evidently sufficient to triumph over such shortcomings and elevate the debut to a lofty quality standard. The Offering did not necessarily break through earth to a shocking depth, yet they’ve doubtlessly dug their heels firmly in the bedrock, clearing the lot of copycats or pseudo-prog assemblies frantically stockpiling brass instruments. Appreciators searching for alluring musicianship will be swiftly drawn in by tantalizing melodies, and even those of a more critical persuasion are sure to be converted upon hearing those resounding choruses and accompanying vocal brilliance. All I can say now is that if this is the home, I can’t wait to see what the mansion looks like.