Release Date: 19th April 2019
Record Label: Sumerian
For Fans Of: August Burns Red, Veil Of Maya, Periphery
After The Burial often seem to get overlooked when people consider the big metalcore names of today. Parkway Drive, Architects and August Burns Red always seem to be the names that spring to mind when the genre is discussed, and yet ATB have a consistently solid back catalogue that very few would shake a stick at (stick shakers are the worst).
Evergreen is the second release following the tragic loss of founding member and guitarist Justin Lowe, and with bassist Lee Foral leaving the band during the previous album’s tour cycle, guitarist Trend Hafdahl remains as the sole founding member still in the band. Yet this doesn’t seem to have impacted the metalcore act’s writing. With previous album Dig Deep considered a reinvigoration of the band, fans were grateful that After The Burial hadn’t lost their spark, and the trend continues with Evergreen.
Opening track ‘Behold The Crown’ also serves as the lead single for album number six, providing an abundance of almost comical pinch harmonics, not dissimilar to ‘Catacombs’ found on Dig Deep. It has proven to be a trend across ATB albums to use their virtuoso command of the guitar to create ‘silly noises’, much like System Of A Down in their earlier days (albeit ATB are on a much more technical level). Despite some responding negatively to the comedic effect of the riff, it still withholds power, and will surely become a staple in the band’s future live sets. Follow up track (and follow up single) ‘Exit, Exist’ provides contrast to the heaviness displayed in ‘Behold The Crown’ by raising the tempo, displaying double pedal attacks and tremolo picking while still featuring mid-tempo breakdown riffs. The track ends on a particularly high note, with the extended outro riff demonstrating how the band can write great guitar parts that do not rely on complexity. Unfortunately, while the overall production of the album has come on leaps and bounds since Wolves Within and before, the album occasionally displays a level of overproduction. The guitar editing on ‘Exit, Exist’ leads to some of the parts sounding digital or programmed, and consequently yields a sterile end product. While it is understandable that guitar editing is a strong component of this brand of progressive metalcore, a balance has to be struck between clarity and sterility.
’11:26′ is the first non-single track of the album, opening with a guitar passage that could be taken out of August Burns Red’s bank of riffs. Almost teasing an instrumental track, the song soon introduces vocals, and provides one of the softer, more melodic moments of the record, featuring no breakdowns, blast beats, or many of the other tropes the band are known for (rest assured though, this is a still a metalcore song written by After The Burial). ‘In Flux’ calls Swedish djent band Vildhjarta to mind, with their dark and ominous take on down-tuned metal, before closing (somewhat inexplicably) with a delayed clean guitar pattern reminiscent of fan favourite ‘Neo Seoul’.
It is here that the album begins to overstay its welcome. While the remaining tracks are not particularly long, nor are there too many songs, one’s focus does begin to wane. With the first four tracks being particularly strong (and opening song ‘Behold The Crown’ being an album highlight), the rest of the album comes across as lacklustre, and could quite possibly do with being restructured to maintain the listener’s interest. ‘Quicksand’ provides a slower moment during the album, almost resembling Deftones’ more nu-metal moments, and ‘To Challenge Existence’ showcases an impressive guitar pattern for those who play guitar, featuring a glitchy, muted sound that makes one wonder how it is achieved, but the song itself is underwhelming, and the impressive nature will potentially be lost on those who don’t play the instrument.
Fortunately, the album picks up by the time we reach closing track ‘A Pulse Exchange’, ending with a thrash-influenced piece with blast beats aplenty, meaning the listener is not left entirely disappointed, but Evergreen does definitely suffer from a sagging midway point. In occasions like this, it makes one consider those legendary albums that have the listener compelled from beginning to end, and while good songwriting is of course key, structuring and a sonic narrative is required to elevate the record’s status.
Evergreen provides some excellent singles and a few extra stand out tracks for good measure, demonstrating that the four-piece still have plenty of great songs to add to their arsenal. The band seem to have come to terms with understanding how to record 8 string guitars and not make them sound like mud, but with the risk of over-production and the inclusion of too many ‘that’ll do’ tracks, After The Burial’s sixth albums doesn’t cover any new ground.
Recommended Tracks: Behold The Crown, Exit, Exist, In Flux
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