Review Summary: Go ahead, make my day. Better yet, light my day on fire.
First impressions can be tough in the ever-growing sea of blackened-death-metal-chaotic-core music. It’s not like new bands emerging onto the scene aren’t aware of the fact that it’s a crowded room, so I’m sure they all try to figure out how to make a lasting impact on people and not get passed up for the next Joe who comes along.
In Burner’s case, it was turn everything up to eleven.
The South London-based band’s debut LP, It All Returns to Nothing
, is furiously fast, mind-numbingly heavy, and totally unhinged. Yes, it has everything that you would expect from an album that crosses modern day metalcore, death metal, and blackened influences. It starts and almost never stops, relentlessly pummeling the listener's eardrums with an onslaught of... heaviness. I don’t need to explain to you that there are riffs, blast beats, breakdowns, growls, screams, a frenetic atmosphere and rapid-fire changes of pace in the album. Furthermore, a large majority of all of these factors are actually very well-executed, and there is no question left that Burner are a band worth paying attention to.
Notice though, that I said the album crosses certain genres. The album has death metal type influences (but it’s not exactly deathcore), it’s not purely metalcore, there are black metal influences, there are chaotic moments but it’s not always pure chaos and there are event very minor nods to djent. Burner pretty artfully tiptoe the lines between certain genres in a way that avoids pigeonholing them while also allowing them to play with the influences they want to play with. You wouldn’t notice it if you weren’t paying attention, but the seamless integration of certain elements of all of the above genres results in an interesting and somewhat unique experience. It’s as though if one were to ask me what genre the album is, I would have to respond with, “Uh… I don’t know… Heavy?”
The refusal to squarely fall into one genre puts the amount of thought that has been put into the subtleties of the album on display, and it is fascinating. As just one example, there are a few points where the album will go from a wall of blast beats and riffs into a breakdown with an almost imperceptible polyrhythm. It doesn’t always happen, which then makes the points that it does more special. Another good example is “Pillars of Shame,” which comes after the opening stretch of the record. It exhibits the blackened influence the band has, but does it in a way that is not obnoxious or out of place.
The most prevalent example though, is to be found in “An Affirming Flame,” a seven and a half minute odyssey that showcases everything the band is capable of in a sometimes brutally heavy, sometimes eerie and sometimes beautiful way. The song confidently moves through Burner’s style without ever feeling clunky or awkward. It also contains just about the only real melodic or atmospheric elements in the album. It demonstrates how effective they are with creating ambience and mood, but also points up the obvious lack of its utilization throughout the rest of the album.
While it is interesting to listen to and dissect, this sort of approach can tend to be somewhat unfocused. Burner morph the sound of their music at an almost dizzying rate to the point where the only constant is the heaviness of the album. It sometimes seems like Burner haven’t really settled on what they are doing, so they end up doing everything at the same time, which can become a bit hard to follow. A minor but glaring example is the transition from “Pillars of Shame” to “Trinity”. While “Trinity” is only an instrumental interlude, there is almost no transition or lead up, which makes it just feel awkward. Additionally, while Harry Nott’s vocals are usually solid, the lows become grating after a while, especially with the degree that they are employed.
These are minor blemishes on a damned good record though. Provided Burner can focus their efforts and create some more space through atmosphere and melody, they have the potential to be stalwarts in this genre.