I know, I know. Nobody wants to read another metalcore review of another metalcore album, with more chugging metalcore riffs and breakdowns, and the same, uninspired metalcore vocals. Well, here’s another one anyway, granted one that may shed some light on a band that is really worth watching. When Excuses Become Antiques is the debut release of Tampa metalcore outfit Phoenix Mourning. The band includes Jeremiah Ruff (vocals), Ahmed Smith (guitar), Stephen Bowman (guitar), Marshall Gibson (bass), and Kery Diwitt (drums). They may be metalcore, but elements of hardcore, alt. rock, traces of emo, and especially heavy metal shine through at times. Is it fair that they'll probably get stereotyped as just another addition to the ever-growing metalcore scene" Yeah, probably. But there are a couple things that keep Excuses more interesting than your standard metalcore album.
The first, and most obvious, is the vocals of Jeremiah Ruff. Unlike bands like Atreyu, that use two vocalists to perform a wide range of singing styles, the only voice you'll here on Excuses is Ruff's. He really is a talented vocalist, using screams, clean vocals, and even some growling very effectively. Unfortunately, it seems that he chooses to layer his vocals far too often, most evident on the song Contrast. I have yet to see them live, though I plan on catching the Jersey show on their upcoming tour, but I can't imagine that they'll really be able to pull the singing off. Also, I think he chooses to scream too often, especially on tracks like Across Twenty-Six Winters, even though that’s a minor concern, since that song is absolutely incredible. Catchy vocal hooks are found on When The Sky Falls and the more emo-influenced From Afar.
Another pro for Excuses is the instrumentation. Despite the fact that they use the standard metalcore riffs, barely audible bass, and, of course, the all-important breakdown all the time and try absolutely nothing new, the playing is still quite proficient throughout. Ahmed Smith and Stephen Bowman obviously know what they are doing (there’s even an short solo on My Future Actress), and Diwitt can play better than most of the genre. The rhythms are all solid, and the riffs change just when the previous one was getting stale. Probably the best tracks are the fast, energetic ones, most notably Across Twenty-Six Winters, One January Morning, and the brilliant Glasskiss, the latter being one of the best metalcore songs I’ve heard in a while, and despite being only 4:58 minutes long, has a very epic feel to it. Also, the album’s pacing is very good, placing the filler material (of which there is quite a bit) between the better tracks. But, like I said, if you’ve listened to other metalcore and hardcore bands like Unearth or A Life Once Lost, you’ve heard it all before.
Which brings me to the albums two major faults: it does not incorporate any new elements to the standard metalcore formula, and though the album doesn’t blend together as much as others in the genre, it does have its fair share of filler (Etched, The Ornament, ‘Niche). And as great as Jeremiah Ruff is, his voice is highlighted a bit too much, leaving the instrumentation sounding thin and weak. The only other glaring problem is the lack of true instrumental sections. Once again, I cannot stress enough that Ruff is an incredible vocalist, but it sometimes feels like he forced himself into a certain section, rather than just sitting back and letting the others do their jobs.
When Excuses Become Antiques is a solid offering from a new metalcore band. While it does very little, if anything at all, to move the genre along, the band sounds like they may have the power to do just that. They’re definitely a band to watch, and I expect great things from them. I just hope that they don’t take the easy way out by introducing more emo to their sound, which seems to be an increasing trend in metalcore these days, and instead follow the metal that they have hidden within Excuses. If you’re not into metalcore, this isn’t worth picking up, but on the flip side, if you are into it, this is really a great disc. I would rate it higher, but its tendency to all sound the same, horrendous filler, and lack of mass appeal and originality leaves it at a 2.5. Downloading the better tracks is probably the best way to go, since you’ll get some excellent music and avoid some stale filler.
-Across Twenty-Six Winters
-One January Morning