After The Burial Forging A Future Self, Forging A Future Self

While not a codified rule, there is definitely a tendency among younger bands to try to make a name for themselves by throwing every single trick they know into their first studio outing. This tends to be a double-edged sword as while it will tend to work well in getting attention, if done to the point of abandoning any sense of coherence, it can lose an audience about as quickly as it finds one. As a style, deathcore has a tendency of being quite prone to this eventuality, given that in addition to being a hybrid of several established styles in itself, it has a fairly strong rooting in progressive metal and tends to play with the arrangement more than a standard mishmash of extreme styles. After The Burial pegged themselves as being on the more progressive side of the deathcore coin, all but to the point of becoming a sort of artsy, avant-garde take on the concept, and their first foray into LP territory Forging A Future Self throws just about everything at the listener in a mere half hour”s time.To be fair, the contents that this jumbled opus carries has several moments of untainted luster, not to mention a keen eye towards the sort of innovative songwriting that progressive minded metal heads of various kinds can appreciate. Curiously enough, their moment of absolute brilliance is the two-minute instrumental introduction “Pi (The Mercury God Of Infinity)”, which consists of a noodling acoustic intro right out of an early 19th century classical concert, followed by a grooving drone of a breakdown section that maps out the numbers of the mathematical constant rhythmically well into double-digit decimal territory. The amount of concentration it would take to pull something like that off live is quite staggering, though just the sort of quirkiness that any Dream Theater or Rush fan could appreciate, especially given that the trademark mishmash of hardcore and death metal vocals are absent from the equation.As the actual meat and potatoes of this album unfolds, it becomes clear that in spite of some extremely well-conceived ideas, that the band overthought things here. Intermittent fragments of ideas typical to the likes of As I Lay Dying and All That Remains (aka melodeath tinged metalcore riffs) trade spots with meandering breakdown sections reminiscent of Meshuggah and The Faceless and the occasional outright nod to groovy droning courtesy of early Machine Head. There are even a couple points where things get mixed up between the sort of rapid fire noodling heard on turn of the millennium Dream Theater and slow-trudging heaviness with squealing pinch harmonics that could pass for slam death. None of these elements in and of themselves are poorly executed, but they are thrown together in a fashion comparable to a modern artist throwing buckets of paint at a giant canvass, with little accounting for transition.Be all this as it may, there are some clear examples of cohesion that definitely point to this band”s better regarded sophomore effort Rareform, and even the weaker songs are not without moments of strength. The album”s title song “Forging A Future Self” is the clearest example of the few songs where things don”t get too convoluted, and things tend a bit towards a purely metalcore approach with a fairly melodic and thrashing gloss, though it does get a bit mathematical during the one djenty breakdown about halfway through and the vocals are a tad schizophrenic. Overall this is a decent album if taken in small doses, but it can be a bit of a struggle to get through the whole thing in a single sitting given all the disjointed elements involved. It stands as a sort of flawed rough draft of what would later become a polished and more innovative take on deathcore compared to some of the other names that were on the bandwagon in the mid-2000s.

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Not much makes me more frustrated than seeing potentially good music get dragged down by elements which could have been done much better. While After the Burial would go on to become one of the more respected names in progressive deathcore thanks to Rareform and its tight blend of melodies and well-controlled djenty breakdowns, there is a reason most of us ignore their first album, it”s bad. There are hints of future greatness to come on Forging a Future Self, but for the most part, it”s much messier and more annoying than its successor.Forging a Future Self is hampered by three main things, the production, the singer, and the songwriting. The production sounds extremely crackly and cheap, taking a lot of strength away from the music. It makes the drums sound extremely artificial, not in a well-produced way that works like with Fear Factory or Dimmu Borgir, but in a way that makes it very obnoxious and fake sounding, like the drummer”s using cheap, plastic, toy drum sticks. This also makes the guitars sound static-y and ruins any strength the breakdowns would have going for them by making them limp and full of treble. The singer is no prize; granted his growls are acceptable, but everything else he does is terrible. When he tries to do shouting, he sounds like Trendkill-era Phil Anselmo with bronchitis, and when he goes for high shrieks, he either sounds like Cam Pipes with a hole in his throat, or puts on this shrill and grating, phlegmy swamp monster voice which is disgusting all on its own. The songs also aren”t strong in most cases. There is a great melody every now and again, and the song “Isolation Theory” is a great, smooth-flowing piece that shows what these guys can do when taking time to create a song, even if the “WOO!” in the middle is just silly. Most of the songs are more like “Fingers Like Daggers” where much of it consists of a mixture of decent melodies, annoying weedling, and random tinny breakdowns that come out if nowhere and get in the way. All of this leaves us a disjointed album with painfully bad production, a grating singer, and composers who, while talented, are still very much still getting the hang of their craft.Forging a Future Self is an appropriate title since their future work is far superior to this in every musical sense. While later albums would explore mixing a fast and high-flying sound that blended catchiness and technicality. This just sounds like the messy embryonic stages of that. It”s badly produced and immature, but there is potential here. After the Burial may not be some one-dimensional deathcore act, but they still have a long way to go from this hardscrabble debut.

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Generally speaking, “Forging a Future Self” falls to the worst of crimes a band in its first steps can commit – taking a ride on an overloaded band-wagon, just for the sake of saying “we can do it too”. And it”s a shame, because there are buckets of raw talent on “Forging…”, and if they”ve took the time to cook this album, it”s very likely that this album would get up to twice in score, especially if minding their awesome accomplishment on “Rareform”. But apparently something was tickling them up their asses to craft a totally unrefined album, pack it up and even to accumulate the balls sell it.But first, a snippet of praise.As said above, “Forging…” doesn”t utterly suck, namely for two reasons: Justin and Trent, the guitar players. Say what you can say about After the Burial, the immense talent of this couple is undeniable. Apart from the top notch technicality of their work, the array of influences is vast – melodeath, old school heavy metal, punk, thrash, classical music, and I”ve probably missed some more elements, but they all are incorporated in the writing, offering you a rather fresh and unpredictable experience, so I guess that could be a commendable fact…but only if they”ve bothered to implement it right. And yes, here is where “Forging…” start to fall off the cliff.I encourage progression in music and exploring outside the limits of the verse-chorus-verse structure, something that works well on “Rareform” and even on a few songs on “Forging…”, but the majority of the album ends up being a convulsive jumping from A to Z to G and henceforth, piling up draft ideas with little gradation or logical integrity in them.Now that”s enough to turn a potential masterpiece into garbage, but that”s just a tip of the iceberg of what turns “Forging…” into pure torment. And I”m not speaking of some classy, “Saw” movies style of torture – I”m speaking of getting chained to a train an hitting the rails as it moves on an offbeat.There”s this guitar technique, made popular by Meshuggah and Dream Theater, and has endorsed as a required attire by every hardcore/deathcore band in existence. I call it the “chugger”, and it consists of continuous strumming of a single palm muted power chord in variating, often odd-time signed patterns – you know it more as “breakdowns”, but this term existed long before deathcore came to fame. Now, as the initial idea of After the Burial was joining this bandwagon, “Forging…” became a chug-fest, as expected, with no regard whatsoever to the fact that even the lousiest of the deathcore bands incorporates chuggers only – as said over head – as breakdowns, so just so happens to be that the chuggers on “Forging…” have gained a life on their own. There”s not a single song without extensive appearances of the chugger – verses, choruses, breakdowns, what have you – regardless of how well does it integrate in it, and it shows. Even the better songs and ideas (like “Pi” and “Isolation Theory”) quickly become a mind numbing fest, entirely dedicated to an enthusiastic and senseless chugging, as if reproducing the effect of a skipping CD became an artistic statement. Given the fact there”s no shortage of creativity on the rest of the album, I can only guess what the hell they were thinking.I mean c”mon – Meshuggah have made their career on chug-fests, way better performed by the way, and even they”ve ditched it.This album has 9 tracks but clocks only a little more than 30 minutes, with literally half of them are wasted on chuggers. I should actually be thankful for that, since another couple of minutes would surely send me on a killing spree, but I can”t ignore the fact that many of the chuggers were simply put with the intent to bloat the length of the album, or to compensate on lack of better ideas, maybe even as a last minute decision, as if they were recording this album at a gunpoint. Take “Isolation Theory” for an example: the actual song ends halfway in his “massive” 2:45 minutes, and then the last minute and something is spent on pointless chug trade-offs. What else can I add? The bass player and the vocalist are mediocre, the drums are poorly programmed, the sound is bearable at best, but it”s not like it could have saved the album or made it worse in anyway. And thank you mister vocalist for ruining the good half of “Isolation Theory” with that “wooooooow” scream, I really appreciate that.Overall: The only thing that”s worse than a bad album is a disappointing album. So much talent got thrown out of the window for all the bad reasons you can think of. So if the point wasn”t clear enough this far – don”t even bother to download it, skip right to “Rareform”.

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