Review Roundup: An Obscure Signal, At Our Heels, Constants, Death in the Park, and Pristina

An Obscure Signal – Creations

Creations was produced by Periphery‘s Misha Mansoor.  It’s no surprise then, that the EP ventures on the mix of low-end brutality and melodic tendencies that made Periphery’s debut so enthralling.  However, An Obscure Signals‘ sound is largely based around standard deathcore fare, making this EP just as easy to hate as much as love.

Take “Expirations” for example, a track which plays with an unoriginal rhythm for a minute before suddenly slowing down and transitioning into a single-picking section that is rather enjoyable.  Again, the track leans back into heavy rhythms and breakdowns before finishing off with a clever climax that is reminiscent of Misery Signals.

This is the main issue with Creations: when An Obscure Signal is themselves, it really isn’t that interesting, but when they add other elements that make it listenable, they simply start to sound like someone else.  This is a band that will delight many when they start to uncover what they are looking for.  They just haven’t found it yet.


At Our Heels – Misanthropy and Godlessness

In 2008, the Vatican Chainsaw Massacre released Hazy Skies Over Martha’s Vineyard, an album that surpassed most of my most-hyped hardcore releases of the year in quality and length.  Last year, Lewd Acts released the soulful (and top 10 worthy) Black Eye Blues.  Both surprising for different reasons, they have raised personal expectations for a new hardcore band to emerge and make their way into my annual best-of list each and every year.  2010 hasn’t had such a band for me until this point.

You guessed it, At Our Heels are that band.  Misanthropy and Godlessness is twenty-six minutes of furious hardcore punk that doesn’t confine itself to any genre norms.  But don’t worry hardcore purists – all of the staples are there, but it is the other, more metallic elements – check out those blasts on closer “Kicking Rocks” – that make At Our Heels special.  Songs like “Graves” and “Non Sum Qualis Eram” will remind you of Pulling Teeth‘s experimental opus Paranoid Delusions/Paradise Illusions, while the one-minute d-beat numbers (eight of the thirteen tracks) provide enough breakneck headbanging for just about anyone.

What is even more special about this record, is that it is an actual record.  It is meant to be listened to in full.  It is meant to be turned the fuck up and moshed to.


Constants – If Tomorrow The War

Constants are a bit of an anomaly; few bands are able to combine elements of post-everything (rock/metal/hardcore) into a cohesive, worthwhile package.  Lots of bands claim to, but it is difficult to deny the versatility and talent displayed in the writing and execution of If Tomorrow The War.

All eight tracks contain emotional vocal harmonies, engaging lead guitar lines and heavier, metallic passages.  Much like Vheissu-era Thrice, Constants are interesting from all angles, making each instrument equally important to the sonic architecture of each song.

The only drawback of If Tomorrow The War is the production.  Everything sounds distant, and the layers of instrumentation are sometimes hard to separate.  It is always a shame when poor production hurts an album.  It has no bearing on the quality of music on the record, but hinders it nonetheless.  Still, if you like more progressive post-hardcore like Thrice and City of Ships, Constants are a band you need to check out.


Death in the Park – Death in the Park

Death in the Park sound like a male-fronted Paramore.  There is no getting around it.  In fact, the band seems to embrace it; in addition to the band’s heavier pop rock sound, Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams is featured on the impressive “Fallen”.

Much like Paramore, Death in the Park’s self-titled full-length is full of catchy hooks, sing-along worthy choruses and infectiously dancy rhythms.

There isn’t a whole lot to say past this: this is far from the most original album of the year, but as a big fan of Paramore, I never mind hearing music in the same vein.


Pristina – The Drought (Ov Salt and Sorrow)

In one of Pristina‘s promo pics, one of the members is seen wearing a Soilent Green t-shirt.  Other than being a mighty fine choice for promo-wear, it makes for a great comparison for part of Pristina’s surprisingly diverse sound.

In fact, The Drought showcases a band that is able to combine elements of sludge metal and black metal, along with thrashy death metal sections, to create an all-encompassing aural assault.  Eight-minute opener “Moonshiner” is a perfect example; the song revolves around a sludgy, drum-driven rhythm, as well as faster, death-driven tremolo passages.  “Temple of the Morning Star” begins with a two-minute acoustic introduction, before bringing that same riff to life as a full band, death growls and all.

The Drought finishes with a twenty-three (yes, 23) minute epic that, while impressive, is hard to have the patience for.  Still, like the rest of the album, it shows a band willing to experiment with different metallic textures and sounds.  And while the album is hit or miss, it is hard not to respect what Pristina are trying to accomplish.



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