Sunday, August 24, 2008

Afterimage - Codex: Triumph in the Eschaton (2007)

Originally posted on, January 2008.

I'm surprised no one has commented on this one yet. This band is fairly unique within the metalcore spectrum. I'd say they are definitely more 'metal' than 'core' for those curious. In fact, I'd say this band is unique in that, while they sound like an equal mixture of melodic death metal, and metalcore, they don't sound like a "deathcore" band because they have enough other influences that seep through to separate them from the pack.

One of the things that stands out right away is the metal tone of the guitars; it sounds more like a metal guitar sound than many metalcore bands normally boast. There is also some intricacy to the riffs, much like a melodic death metal or thrash metal band. Vocally, they incorporate some layered vocals sounds that include a mid-range scream/growl, and a somewhat deeper growl, as well as some harmonized clean vocals. There is some good drumming heard here that ranges from blastbeats to slow & deliberate. The bass is a little hard to hear in the mix, but what can be heard is competent and seems to keep time with the guitars and drums well enough.

Production on this indie disc is quite good. Everything sounds nice, and aside from the bass (which admittedly gets lost in the shuffle on most metal albums in the extreme side of the coin), there's plenty of clarity in the sound. There were spots on here that reminded me of The Showdown's "A Chorus of Obliteration" with its overt metal passages, energy, and the combination of clean singing and harsh vocals over tasty riffing. Don't take this to mean they're a clone, however; far from it. Afterimage carve out their own unique sound. They definitely have their own vibe, and don't sound quite like anyone else. You can hear bits & pieces that will remind you of other bands, but nothing stuck out to me as being a direct copy or rip-off of another group.

I really like the riffing on this CD. Where some metalcore bands are content to either riff really fast, or slow and chunky, Afterimage mix things up and do both, along with some nice change-ups now and again. "Forged In Perfect Design" has a nice echoed guitar passage that is only lightly distorted, with some nice accent guitar behind it. Also, there is some good solo work here. It's not overly flashy, but the kind that fits the songs well & works within the context of the material, content to be a part of the landscape rather than a showpiece. Another thing that sets Afterimage apart from their metalcore brethren is that the breakdowns don't have that "also-ran" sound to them. They aren't like other breakdowns in hardcore/metalcore; I can't really explain it, but they just have their own feel to them. Part of that may be due to the production & the guitar tone, but part of it is the breakdowns themselves just being different.

Another thing that separates Afterimage from the norm is their lyrics. While many "Christian" metalcore bands have those oh-so-tempting vague lyrics that only hint at Christ or Christianity (or such references are veiled in thick metaphor), Afterimage is quite clear in their lyrical approach. Completely ignoring the trend to downplay (or veil) their allegiance, the lyrics here are replete with references to God, Jesus, Christ, and Lord in varying quantities. Most of the lyrics sound as though they're directly inspired by passages of scriptures, and some appear to reflect the Psalms quite a bit.

"Soulmender" opens things with both barrels firing, and sets the tone for the first half of the album. Great riffing, nice transitions, and good vocal layering abound. "Forged in Perfect Design" continues and adds a little more clean vocal action, while having an overall different vibe than the opening track. "You Who Are Broken" is the longest track on the album, and has some nice stuff going on, including a nice unique breakdown toward the end of the song. "Immersed" opens with a cleanly sung verse & some lighter guitar (though still distorted & heavy), and blows into a fast heavy section in short order. "Burning Hands" has a nice odd-timed intro riff that reminds of semi-technical death metal or oddly timed thrash riffs of old. Once again, the transition/breakdown about a minute in sounds different than other bands and has its own feel. The vocals are SICK in this song, with a loooong scream, slightly reminiscent of Shawn Jonas in its incessant length. "Precursing the Final Millenia" sounds very "melodic death metal" in its intro, and has a nice "stop on a dime" spot that is sure to bring a smile to your face. This track has the most "deathcore" feel of all the tracks, with pinched harmonics abounding, loads of double-bass, and switch-off between higher pitched screams and lower, more guttural deathy growls. Still, it has its own sound to it that keeps it from sounding like run-of-the-mill deathcore. There's a nice transition about half-way through the song that gives you a chance to hear the bass a little, and has some nice echoed, layered solo work.

All in all, a stellar indie release from this band. I can't see why any fan of metalcore, melodic death metal, deathcore, or just any fan of extreme music that has an open mind wouldn't find something to like here. The packaging is nice, the print of the lyrics is well done & easy to read, the CD looks great, and the graphics are well done. This is a very professional product & the band should be commended for taking the time to put something together this nice.

My only suggestion for the band would be to improve upon the clean singing in 2 ways:

1. Put a little more variety in the clean singing so it's not just "straight"
2. Sing the clean vocals with as much passion and energy as the harsh vocals.

If the band can do that, their next disc could be absolutely stellar. Facedown, Blood & Ink, or one of the other indie Christian labels needs to snap these guys up.


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