Burnt By The Sun – Heart Of Darkness
When a new album featuring freakish drummer Dave Witte reaches shelves or finds its way onto the wonderful world wide web, I do not even remotely attempt to hide my excitement and anticipation. The man has been involved with almost exclusively A-plus-plus projects, including the late grindcore gods Discordance Axis, the absolutely essential Human Remains (Using Sickness As A Hero!) and most recently the successful crossover act Municipal Waste. However, Burnt By The Sun will always be the band known as his “baby”, so to speak; even with attempts to part from the group in 2004 with vocalist Mike Olender, both of them found their way back to the band in 2006 and three years later we find Burnt By The Sun gifting us with their final work.
Let’s get something out of the way: we are dealing with a metalcore band here (TRADITIONAL metalcore, mind you). Much like Converge on their earlier recordings, we have crunchy palm muted stomping riffs, Forbidden thrash beats, Slayer-like double picking riffs, as well as hardcore musings and spoken word interludes. There is also string skipping and alternate-picked melodies that have a Psycroptic-esque melodic sensibility, as well as more ambient sections. “But it’s all been done before!”, you say. This is true of all music, but where Burnt By The Sun sets themselves apart from the pack on this final effort is just how, for lack of a better word, PISSED they sound. Maybe because it’s because only one semi-popular band these days is even remotely close to matching the bass-heavy, bombastic, and ultimately oppressive assault (Gojira), but the production on this album is absolutely massive, thanks to the efforts of Trax East Recording Studios and producer Eric Rachel (who is also known for aiding The Red Chord with fine-tuning their own ball-smashing recordings). If you listen to this record with headphones on, your brain will be sufficiently pummeled. Everything from the guitars to the six-string bass sounds huge, and coupled with Olender’s unbridled shrieks and screams (no fake scene rasps here!), it makes for a thoroughly satisfying listening. The best part is that the intensity is cranked from the onset of listening; the first few seconds of “Inner Station” are just as heavy as the rest of the CD’s ten tracks. It is also nice to know that the band has not lost their sense of humor that they’ve had since earlier recordings; they often poke fun at the hardcore genre, with goofy spoken word interludes, hammed up screams at points, and the immortal moment on “There Will Be Blood” when he screams: “You want pissed off?! I’LL SHOW YOU PISSED OFF!”
Due to the repetition-heavy song structures, at first I was worried about the album being shallow and its lasting appeal limited, despite sounding really nice and meaty coming out of my speakers. It was around that time that I realized I was probably missing out on quite a bit of what the album had to offer by cranking the bass and blasting it out of my speakers, so I decided to dedicate a morning to listening on some nice headphones. This album contains a shockingly textured sound-scape from start to finish; it is wet with ambient noise, melodic vocal harmonies, avante-garde guitar explorations over rumbling subterranean bass (courtesy of Mister 6th String). The true test of an album’s greatness to me is if I can continue to listen for weeks or months at a time, every single day, and continue to find new instrumentation or details that interest me. It’s a bit of reviewer bias, perhaps, but Burnt By The Sun manages to keep my balls securely in their iron grasp for the long-term whilst other metalcore acts put me to sleep after the first few spins. And, in a feat almost unheard of for bands of this nature, the album actually manages to pick up in intensity and become MORE heavy at the midway point. The trend of bands putting their heaviest and most appealing songs right at the beginning of the CD, only to have the listener eject the CD after the fourth or fifth track is becoming more and more commonplace, so it’s glad to see that this particular band pulled out all of the final stops for their final album. Absolutely recommended if you enjoy really, really, really heavy music. Not recommended if you have an aversion to 100% riff-oriented metal, if you love basement black metal production values, or if you want a faster-paced grind – in which case I would have to steer you towards Gridlink‘s EP.