Within The Ruins – Invade
Though a marked improvement over last year’s Creature, Invade lands the band in the same waning territory, their skillful writing stifled by the conventions of their genre. In an effort to single themselves out of the herd, Within The Ruins have based Invade heavily on Gorod‘s newer output; I wonder if this is the beginning of a new trend, wherein Necrophagist is no longer the template for… well, every band of the style (such as labelmates Wretched pilfering half of Epitaph for their newest, Beyond The Gate) – Gorod certainly offered a hyperactive, guitar driven tech death aesthetic that was vastly different in tone and execution than the wildly beloved Onset Of Putrefaction (at the time). And yet, the past decade’s younger, more scene conscious bands have taken greater to Suicmez‘s mold than Willowtip’s perennially under-discussed eggheads- However, the popularity of 2009’s Process Of A New Decline is surely growing. The Gorod influence is heard most glaringly in the first instrumental “Ataxia” (the title reminds of Ziltoid The Omniscient), complete with flamboyant, harmonized bends and static rests that interrupt repeating note patterns, aided by a hoppy kick/snare sequence- It’s hard to ignore.
Haphazardly linking these (relatively) “inspired” moments of songwriting are, of course, your escalating breakdowns and emotionless melodeath noodling; bands have begun to realize that a breakdown is more stylish than effective when it really is breaking nothing down at all, and thus breaking down the already broke down throwdowntown becomes more a production mission than musical one. This means that the strings’ tone suddenly shifts from higher compression to a wetter, bass droppy, flood of distortion, then tightening back up into the crisper palm muted strikes, and finally again dropping the tone into a deeper, “brutaller” arena… I’m sure, for fans, it works in theory (and was even used this year in Ion Dissonance‘s Cursed, but it was as ridiculous and gimmicky there as it is here), as mosh parts are able to be slung from nowhere and still be given a sense of buildup and climax, but to argue the point in a review for Invade would be to take on the whole “proggy” deathcore institution. Head straight to “Red Flagged” for the most extravagant instance of this.
Despite the admittedly entertaining production quirks (an embittered growl slides into an analog deepthroat like that heard on a Ke$ha single), the vocal tracking is the weakest element of the album. Mixed far too high, Tim Goergen dominates the other balanced instruments with raspy gutturals that seem to ape The Acacia Strain‘s goofiness (“Fuck your gift of free wurrrrrl”) more than on Creature. The delivery is humdrum to say the least, although not banal to the depth that Veil Of Maya has plumbed. And then there’s the lyrics, with painfully clumsy syllogisms like “I believe what I believe so don’t force your faith on meeeeee!”, fortune cookieisms such as “Life is what you make it”, and the announcements – “I’ve got a few things to get off my chest” – Thanks for the heads up, we’re already here and listening, aren’t we? The “clever” adoption of idioms and turns of phrase are abound in sassy, deathcore crowd-rallying moments and t-shirt designs, but they always sound painfully ludicrous when issuing from a sesame street voice.
And we reach the elements to praise, of which actually are equal in number to the more embarrassing moments on Invade. For one, the stringsmen (Mike Beaujean, Jay Van Schelt, and Joe Cocchi) are able to play better than all of their friends in other bands, and certainly apply that discipline to very technical compositions that legitimately impress. It’s not cheese all the time, and the more intelligent riffs cut through with wow-factor in “Oath”‘s intro build up and the later breakdown in “Behold The Harlot”. The drumming is often metronomic and highly produced, but that is always a plus for this very precise form of music, and commands grooves well like those to be found on title track “Invade”. As loathsome as the genre can be at time, it always remains an entertaining breeding ground for stylish, varied, and energetic drum performances. “Less is more” is a phenomenon that still evades a majority of these bands (except when removing all cymbals in a 90 bpm breakdown is considered minimalist), and Within The Ruins is no different; the tracks are filled to capacity with so many brief hints of riffing ingenuity that their development has come and gone even before they are played. It gives the whole effort an excessive disposability, and exists more as a benefit in a tablature format. For a complex and heavy band that allows their ideas to form organically in the context of a song, I implore to head in the direction of East Of The Wall‘s Ressentiment and the work of Solace And Stable instead of these here parts. As mentioned, a step up in terms of design, Invade is a complex and often conflicting effort stuck in the constrictions of its deceptively postmodern genre.