Tuesday, August 9, 2011

ForChristSake - Death Is But a Breath Away (2010)

Death Metal fans are a picky bunch.  They often don't want anything mixed in with their metal, they just want it straight up.  Like stiff black coffee, they want no cream, sugar, or anything else that will dilute, change, or "pollute" their music.  Despite that, many bands have made it their mission to mix death metal with a variety of elements, everything from power metal (Kiuas comes to mind) to hardcore (deathcore, anyone?), and even large doses of melody, as evidenced by the wave of melodic death metal bands over the last 10 years or so.  Things aren't so muddied when you mix death metal with the style that preceded it, as well as with the style that some say has eclipsed death metal in both popularity and brutality, though arguably so.

ForChristSake, from Northern Ireland, is a group of gents that do just that; mixing death metal with extreme thrash and elements of black metal.  Their sound also includes some parts that are more cleanly sung, though still aggressive, with a dose of melody for a nicely balanced sound.  There are spots in each song where you can pick out which stylistic element they're going for, but overall the songs have a nice blended feel.  Production on this EP is decidedly "old school", for lack of a better term.  What that means, basically, is instead of highly compressed and overly polished production values, you get a raw, classic extreme metal sound with enough sonic muscle behind it to feel like you're still listening to a recent release.  Instruments are generally audible, though occasionally the sound gets a bit muddy, as one would expect with so much going on.

Guitars crunch nicely, though with a bit better production or re-amping they might have a little more power.  Overall, however, the guitar sound suits the music and the sound of the EP.  Guitar solos are present, with some wild licks going on, at times sounding barely restrained like early thrash metal or early death metal.  Bass guitar is something that you can actually pick out of the mix, which is a nice change from most death metal.  Bass work is competent and fits the music well.  Drum work is fast and furious at times, and groovy in others.  There are spots where it almost sounds as though the drums aren't keeping time, but when the sound is this "no holds barred" that could be my ears deceiving me.  Vocally the band employs mid-range death metal growls, some more shriek-like vocals (think Jeff Walker-meets-Alexi Laiho), as well as some slightly gruff cleanly sung vocals.  It's a good mixture in the 4 tracks present here.

My qualms with the EP are few, but valid.  The intro to "Psalm of Repentance" is way too long, and too quiet to really make out what's going on.  If it's supposed to be atmospheric that's fine, it just doesn't quite work.  As much as I enjoy "Sleep" (great melodic hook in the chorus), the song is a bit repetitive, and could have been trimmed down a bit.  Same goes for "Cry of the Martyrs Blood" - it's just a bit overlong.  The one song here that hits the nail on the head most accurately is the single "O" with its chaotic instrumental assault and to-the-point song structure.  "O" is probably still a touch long, but it at least captivates all the way through without giving the impression that it's going on too long.  It's not that the rest of the songs are in any way bad, just that they could use a little tightening.

If more of the material was a bit more succinct like "O" this EP would be a stronger effort.  If the band wants to explore longer songs and more progressive elements they toy with here and there, they need to improve their writing and generate more interest throughout each track rather than simply verse-chorus, verse-chorus, bridge, rinse, repeat.  That probably sounds more harsh than it needs to, but when you have a lot of bands making excellent indie releases with little or no financial backing (or incentive), there's far too much competition not to step up the songwriting.  That said, this EP is still a good listen and worthwhile for fans of good death metal with a bit of experimentation and variety.  Recommended for fans who are hungry for more death metal.


Here's the video for "O" to whet your appetite:

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