Review Summary: All good intentions…
I’m going to be completely open and honest here... I wasn’t going to write this review. I mean, I’m one of those guys who would readily admit there’s near nothing interesting coming out of deathcore lately, finding vague merit in any argument loosely labelled “deathcore is dead”. Melancholy
, from U.S. born Shadow Of Intent however, raises it’s arguments against that particular point of view. I’d have to agree with them, but while they’re the first to provide any measurable new interest in deathcore (in recent memory) as a whole Melancholy
fails to build on the incredible potential on offer. Instead, Shadow Of Intent mash together an album filled with as many highs as there are lows, misfiring in the face of innovation. Let’s be clear here, this isn’t a bad album by any means, but it's a medley of sound that throws all its proverbial eggs into one basket with devastating result. To summarize, Shadow Of Intent showcases immense potential on the group’s third studio effort, but fails to achieve anything but a mixed bag in terms of overall quality. Largely, Melancholy
isn’t worth the collective sum of all its parts put together. It’s shock, but without the awe to back it up.
That sounds quite critical to be honest, but it’s not all bad news. In dropping the outlandish Halo
themes found in both the debut and sophomore Melancholy
is allowed some organic breathing room, resulting in a more immersive, real-world theme for the listener. Unless of course you can relate to alien warfare on a synthetic planet dressed in some completely unflattering body armour? But it’s the symphonic elements that are most noticeable throughout Melancholy
’s fifty-two minute run-time. Graceful notes bleed into a cinematic Dimmu meets Fleshgod styled death onslaught to which the title track opens this record. Now melding symphonic elements into death metal isn’t exactly a new, revolutionary feature - but it’s on the less-heard-of side as far as deathcore goes. It’s industrious and at times hauntingly monolithic (see the introduction and the floating atmosphere of “Gravesinger”) while occasionally lends itself to unfortunate, bleeding over top nuances. Melancholy
becomes more aesthetically pleasing when it offers these features up in simplicity. “Gravesinger”’s solo fits well into this example. Classic techniques into a well-tuned solo gives the track (and album) a better dynamic range that showcases both instrumental talent and occasionally well placed ideas. The better moments of this record come from a diminishing “core” sound, focusing more on sympho-laced death metal and their conceptual journey found in the album’s footnotes.
At fifty-two minutes, Melancholy
feels longer than it should and the album’s ‘good ideas’ start appearing further apart and have less impact. Some of those ideas that may have gotten a free pass on a first listen become glaringly obvious. The quasi-clean yells of “Oudenophobia” (and others) become grating, forced and painful to hear, lacking the emotive nuances needed to relate them to the story and listener. “Barren and Breathless Macrocosm” unfortunately feels like filler, laid out just to have Trevor Strnad showcase some signature screams. The featured track/artist is a nice touch but Melancholy
would actually be [slightly] better off if “Barren and Breathless Macrocosm” was cut from the album. It’s an easy conclusion to come by once the insatiable grooves of “Under A Sullen Moon” swelter in. “Embracing Nocturnal Damnation” unfortunately falls into the same numbing category as “Barren and Breathless Macrocosm” saved only by its rapid delivery, climaxing end and rather short track length (especially when compared to the ten minute instrumental show-stopper “The Dreaded Mystic Abyss”).
Musically, these guys can clearly play. Any amounts of sweeps, blasts and riffs affirm this and production wise, Melancholy
sublime. The issue with being so full-on all the time, coupled with some incredibly over-the-top symphonic elements is sound saturation. It’s too much. Yes, you can hear the bass, but it's become one with the punch of a guitar riff rather than the supportive one-two that helps bring atmosphere and music together. In places, the Dimmu/Fleshgod nuances the album uses as its backbone become sterile in their tendency to come too forward in the mix. An inclination of ‘less is more’ would’ve seen accolades in the place of superabundance. These may be small gripes in the ears of a subjective listener, but for anyone else they are degrading flaws, capable of railroading an album.
“The Dreaded Mystic Abyss” is, however, Melancholy
’s saving grace. Thinking pensively, I’d be interested to know just how good this track would be with the inclusion of Ben Duerr’s vocal range (bar the sub-par cleans). It’s this track that showcases just how much potential Shadow Of Intent actually has just waiting in the wings. It’s progressive, technically proficient and steers away from the general trappings of deathcore. Had this record been fifty-two minutes of like-“The Dreaded Mystic Abyss”, Melancholy
might actually be worth the hype that surrounds it - and frankly, it’s this track that should’ve closed the album’s story. Overall it’s of little surprise that Melancholy
is getting a high level of attention. Deathcore fans have been waiting for a resurrection of life for quite some time now. Shadow Of Intent are right on the cusp, they’ve just got to learn how to harness their ideas into a more cohesive, less saturated approach. Shadow Of Intent has all the potential to become a premiere death metal powerhouse, as long as they aren’t readily over-hyped in the meantime.