Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Faceless - Akeldama

Unfortunately I was too much of a wuss to handle Akeldama when it came out. But now that it’s been almost six years since its release, it’s about time I reviewed it because even though this is a more recent band, this album is probably one of the most important and influential albums in today’s death metal world. When kids of today think of The Faceless, the first songs that usually come to their minds are tracks like Prison Born, The Ancient Covenant, or Coldly Calculated Design. I can admit that even though Akeldama was the first Faceless album that I heard, Planetary Duality was the album I heard by them that made me piss myself. Because Planetary Duality was an album I heard before I even knew about bands like Obscura, Rings of Saturn (who probably weren’t even around then), Brain Drill, and Origin, The Faceless to me was the most technical band of all-time. But even though I’ve been proved wrong by bands like Rings of Saturn and Obscura, The Faceless still remains in my mind to be one of the most skilled and complex death metal bands ever to come into existence (or land on this planet in this case). Planetary Duality is still my favorite Faceless album, but Akeldama has obviously has a HUGE influence on the modern death metal world, especially in the brutal death and tech death areas.

Released under the (at that time) brand new Sumerian Records, Akeldama made it obvious to everyone that there was an underlying hunger amongst the metalhead community for this type of science fiction brutality. This was proved by huge record sales, sold-out concerts only months after Akeldama’s release, and an explosion of other bands following the same general musical style and lyrical themes. But I AM NOT SAYING that The Faceless STARTED this trend because bands have been doing this since Atheist started coming out with albums in the late 1980s. But enough of talking about the background behind this record, those of you that haven’t heard it need to read this review because this album is not what any of us expected.

The opening track shows off the inconceivable speed that can be perfectly obtained by the entire band with lazar-precision. The first couple of seconds of the first track sound just like any other faster-than-average death metal band; that is, until you get more into the song where things start getting really abstract and weird. This is still a song that I have a hard time choking down because it’s still weird to me. Mainly because it changes around so many times (maybe even too many times) that it can actually be hard to keep up with unless you’re really used to this kind of music. The song goes from fast death metal to sort of an Origin-style technical sound with guitar harmonics, leading into complex kick drums and melodic parts and…I give up…I’m not even able to put it into words it’s so complicated, just look up An Autopsy if you think you can handle it. I’ve honestly never heard a band do this before in my life (of course now I have, but I’m talking about when I gave it a second listen two years after its release).

Although most of the rest of the album isn’t quite as overwhelming as the opening track, don’t get the idea that the rest of the songs are boring and uncreative. There are some songs that have less technicality and…nevermind, there’s no such thing as “less/no/little technicality” in this album. That’s probably the reason why I couldn’t handle it when I was thirteen (and still have a slightly difficult time handling it now when I actually put all my focus on the music). BUT THIS IS NOT THAT “WANKERY” TYPE OF TECHNICALITY that is played by bands like Decrepit Birth and Rings of Saturn. This is the type of technicality and complexity that is found in literally every corner and crevice in this band’s music and you find literally every type of technicality that you can think of, which shows creativity that I’ll probably never be able to have.

The fifth track has the Faceless sound that is widely recognized today (aka Planetary Duality). So the two-part Horizons of Chaos (tracks 4 and 5) were probably written last due to the more modern sound they have. I just realized that the reason why this album is too much for some people is probably because it’s so disorganized. The music switches sounds so often and so suddenly that there’s no blending or major organization efforts of any kind. It’s sort of like one of those promo teasers that bands release a couple weeks before they release a new record that’s just 30-second clips from each of the songs blended into one song.

My favorite tracks off of this album are Leica and Akeldama. Leica has one of those slower thrash-based sounds with tons of hidden tricks that the guitarists pull out of their sleeves. I also love Leica because of the ambient keyboards in the background that give it that “sci-fi/alien invasion” type of feel. Akeldama starts out with one of the members (probably not from this planet) speaking in (what could possibly be) his normal non-human voice, warning the humans of how little time they have left to exist. The thing that makes this song the most unique out of the whole album is that it has very profound keyobards that remind me of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer (you older guys should know who they are) and that it’s really melodic! That’s the thing that caught me off-guard, I was expecting another relentless brutal track, and what I was given was an experimental atmospheric melodic track that BLEW ME AWAY. This is an amazing album that everyone should listen to (and hopefully respect). I gave this album 18/20.