Having already reviewed Whitechapel this year, it seems only fitting that a new After The Burial record would come along so soon after. Whilst not being in the same sphere of musical style at all both bands are at a similar point in their careers. After The Burial much like Whitechapel are also absolute masters of their sound a band that has remained pretty much unrivaled in terms of musicianship and influence.
Evergreen (Sumerian Records)is the band’s latest opus and feels and sounds like ATB have always done but with also just enough tweaks to keep things interesting. There is no wild shift in style with that heavy Meshuggah influence still present but this time there is way more emphasis on groove and yes shudder to the thought actual hooks.
‘In Flux’ is a massive, huge statement of an opening song, this immediately took me back to the album In Dreams(also Sumerian)with that riff and pinch harmonic refrain becoming embedded in my skull from the off. This kind of progressive, tech metal can admittedly wear thin sometimes so it was so good to hear something fresh so early on.
The production helps immensely throughout with a dirtier less precise mix, there’s a bit of grit and grime that I really wasn’t expecting. The balance of this with the technical nature of the songwriting is a very effective combination. ‘Quicksand’ is another slice of goodness this time with a very slow dark and methodical riff echoing much which came with last album Dig Deep. I adore this side of ATB as it differs so greatly from their previous work. Guitarist Trent Halfdahl is now the only surviving member of the original line up and he has poured every bit of himself into Evergreen. Those chugging riffs still batter you senseless and his sweeping solo style is still at times breathtaking.
After a strong start, the familiar drawbacks of the djent sound start to rear their ugly heads. Now while the overall sound is well-rounded there is enough wizardry and flair in the music the vocals really do need a lot of work. Now I’m not saying that there needs to be an abundance of clean vocals à la Periphery or even Monuments. There just needs to be a lot more variation, something to take these songs to the next level.
Take ‘Respire’ for instance a track which is about as straight ahead Metalcore as ATB will ever get and somewhere where I felt the vocals could have really filled things out. Instead, it just dissolves into the same style no matter what the music is doing.
Evergreen is a very apt title being that ATB is still here and will be for many years to come. This is a very solid progressive metal album which still shows why they’re so highly regarded amongst fans and peers alike. There is just so those same nagging problems which stop it being a masterpiece.
7 / 10