Thursday, November 26, 2009

Post Mortum - Rise Above Ruin (2009)

It is said that adversity builds character. There are numerous historical figures that have made mention of this fact, and many famous quotes that speak of hardships being key to developing oneself from just an average person to someone of greatness. Indeed, overcoming tragedy, loss, personal struggles, and difficulties within life is central to the life of a Christian - without having the temptations to avoid, the hard times to work through, and the negative situations to overcome, we would have no way of truly growing. Thus, believers in Christ can look forward to lives long & full of adversity.

So what happens when the adversity is so great that it looks like it might sink you? Swim, of course! That's what Post Mortum did. They had recorded a high quality album and released it in 2007 under the moniker "Road Ahead". The band seemed to have a bright future, when tragedy struck. Or should I say, tragedies. They lost their front-man, had family deaths to deal with, and had a major accident w/ their trailer that left them with few of the things they needed to tour with. Rather than throwing in the towel, they persevered. Meanwhile, their label dropped them like a hot rock, washing their hands of the situation. So the band had to scrape, but they finished the tour & went home with heads held high. Then, they went back in the studio & re-recorded "Road Ahead", redid a couple things, dropped a couple songs & added a new one, changed the track order, and we have "Rise Above Ruin" - a fitting title, considering all the struggle they had to go through in early 2008.

So what does Post Mortum sound like? That's a difficult question to answer. If I had to tack a genre description to their sound, I'd say "Progresive Nu-Metal". While that might make some look at their computer screens sideways, or others to immediately stop reading, I must say it goes deeper than that. This band has a unique approach that combines the heaviness of metalcore and nu-metal with a melodic sensibility & modern rock approach that gives the vocalist the ability to shine on more than one front. Add to that the fact that the music is laced with violin, and you get something pretty interesting & unique. Even for someone who generally despises music with the "Nu-Metal" moniker, I'd urge them not to judge the book by it's cover, or in this case, it's descriptor. Post Mortum has enough originality & skill to stand out from the pack.

"Intro" is the obligatory introductory track, complete with ambient "outdoor noise", echoed violin, and atmospherics to set the somber mood. One almost expects the ensuing album to be a wholly different affair than what comes, given the approach taken with the intro. "Drip" is where things really kick off, with its catchy chorus, heavy riffs, growled verse vocals, and melodic violin lines. "Fire" takes a very melodic approach, with nice voilin accents, sung vocals, and a cool guitar effect that is a combination of a clean phased sound, with a slight echo in the mix. There's also some layering of the clean & growled vocals, which sounds cool in the bridge, as well as a simple, but effective solo toward the end. "Dysfunction" begins with some tom hits and clean guitar, but quickly blows into the heaviness. The clean vocals sound like they're double-tracked in the chorus, which is a cool effect. The violin in this song seems at times like an afterthought, but after multiple listens, makes perfect sense in the context of the melody, acting as a nice counterbalance. The bridge has a nice build to a heavy section with growled vocals, double-bass, thick guitar, and a brief violin solo. "Still Alive" is a somber, melodic affair, complete with whispery vocals and clean guitar, as well as the violin adding a nice melodic touch. The chorus heavy's things up with another layering of clean & growled vocal, giving a nice contrast between verse & chorus. The bridge has a cool effect that shows the violinist doing the fast, ascending sound that mirrors what Satan supposedly played in The Charlie Daniels Band's "The Devil Went Down to Georgia", which was a nice touch. "Rose" wastes no time in making it heavy from the get-go, with nice voilin accents and heavy riffing. Even the slightly muted verse still has plenty of crunch in the riffing. Double-tracked chorus vocals have a very melodic sound that makes it quite catchy.

"Heart Sight" begins with a riff that immediately evokes the nu-metal sound, but the massive groove here is undeniable. I like the slightly echoed clean guitar in the verse, with the bass and drums providing just enough to complement. The chorus is a heavy affair, with layered vocals, an underlying growled vocal, and a catchy hook. Violin is suspicously missing in this song, though listening to it, it's hard to know what it might have added. "One Regret" is the new track here that wasn't on "Road Ahead", and it's an affecting power ballad. Great violin work complements the clean guitar, the emotive vocal, and the overall feel of the piece. Things get heavier in the chorus, but don't sacrifice melody - rather, the chorus is hooky and has a stop-start dynamic that just makes it more memorable. "Snap" has a nice "rollercoaster" riff to it, that goes up and down as it's picked out. Layered vocals work well here, with clean vocals taking precedence, then a growled vocal takes over, then back to an equal-footing layer in the chorus. I like the chording they use in the chorus, it has a nice feel to it and breaks up the power-chord monotony a bit. The bridge gives a bit more of the nu-metal flavor of slightly rapped vocals, but overall the song is a very melodic affair, despite the heaviness in the riffing. "Goodness Gracious" starts abruptly, immediately pounding the listener with growled vocal & heavy guitar, then immediately transitions to clean guitar & vocals. The chorus combines the clean vocals & growls effectively with heavier riffing, but once again retaining the melodic element. Again, violin is absent from this song, like "Snap" before it. However, despite the presence being missed, the song is strong with it's melodic vocal hook in the chorus, and catchy riff. The slowed down heavy riffing toward the end is a nice touch as well. "Burning Tears" has a bit of an unconventional melody in the verses, though the chorus brings a catchy riff into the mix with a mixture of stacatto-delivery growled vocal, and a highly melodic sung vocal that keeps pace with the riffing. "Kill the 666" is the heaviest thing on the album, saving the most bone-crushing part of the album for the end. There's an interesting effect of multiple growled vocal tracks layered in to create a cool effect. There are no clean sung vocals on this track, only growls and rasps delivering the lyrics. There is a bit of a rhythmic vocal delivery that reminds one of faster hip-hop, but not so much that you'd accuse this of being rapcore. About half-way through, things slow down for some spoken-word layered vocals combining with growled & rasped vocals for more of the effect like at the beginning of the song, but much more pronounced. The song ends on a heavy note, with a slowed down riff and a loudly shouted vocal proclaiming "Kill the 666!", with a brief pinch harmonic to bring things to a close.

This is an interesting album, one that I believe the band has worked very hard on. I do think that it is an improvement over "Road Ahead" in many areas: it sounds better, has cleaner vocals, a better, beefier guitar sound, better layering and insertion of the violin, and overall better production. There are some areas that could improve, however. I'd like to see more extensive use of the violin, as I think in the 2nd half of the album, the instrument becomes little more an after-thought. Also, I think that the guitarist has command of his instrument, but with the undercurrent of southern rock influence that shines through, there are no guitar solos. This isn't a major complaint, only a "wish list" kind of thing. I do wish Todd had flexed his 6-string a bit more to bring out more of that vibe. That said, this is still a quality album. I have major respect for these guys for soldiering on after such a crushing defeat, and for that they have earned this review. Let's hope that we haven't heard the last of Post Mortum, because their next CD could be massive. Recommended.


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