Monday, October 29, 2012

Upon this Dawning - To Keep us Safe

Italian metalcore band Upon this Dawning just released their Fearless Records debut titled To Keep us Safe. I will admit that in metal (for some reason especially metalcore), I tend to base initial prejudice on an album when I first look at the artwork (before I listen to it). Unfortunately, this was the case with To Keep us Safe because, well, the artwork is pretty damn ugly, I’m not going to lie. But for reviewing purposes, I decided to give the fucker a listen and was surprised at the quality of the music. Upon this Dawning has the ability to have all the current metalcore trends in their music while still creating a record that could be considered original and even unique in some aspects. Here’s a piece of advice: don’t take that sentence and blow it out of proportion, because (spoiler alert) this is just plain old generic metalcore. But like the generic forms of all genres, there’s still plenty (and I mean a lot) of elbow room, leaving enough space for bands to stick to the core elements while still striving to be unique and special. Some other bands that could be considered part of that “generic but unique and original” would be Killswitch Engage, Miss May I, Bullet for my Valentine, Eyes set to Kill, and the band I am going to now discuss, Upon this Dawning.

Just so that I could say that I have seen it, I decided to look up the music video for the first track off the album, A New Beginning, which features Chris Motionless (Motionless in White) on vocals. First, let me say that I’m not the biggest fan of music videos in general, because, well, most of them suck. And the WORST ones are the ones that have an actual storyline behind what’s going on in the video, which then takes the song out of the spotlight and turns it into background music. The music video for A New Beginning is the type of music video that I like watching; the kind that simply just shows the band playing the song in a really cool setting. But like most videos, it kind of turned me off to the band because of infamous dance-moves that I’d just rather go on without seeing and the part where Chris Motionless appears to be screaming the entire time, when in the recording, he’s actually primarily doing mid-range screams and growls.

Like I mentioned before, Upon this Dawning plays nothing that you haven’t heard before. But that’s not to say that they can’t still be done well. Because Upon this Dawning doesn’t possess any of the really BAD qualities that would normally butcher a metalcore band’s music like auto-tune singing and cheesy synthesizer sounds, To Keep us Safe turns out to be an enjoyable record for the avid metalcore listener. The music doesn’t get overly-repetitive, the amount of breakdowns in each song isn’t over-the-top, the base note of the breakdown change every once in a while (not something you hear in metalcore and screamo very often at all), and the energy present in the members and their music shines through all the production work with ease.

What the better breakdown-dependent metalcore bands figure out is that they should have those complex breakdown-like rhythmic patterns, and then have that one section that just leaps out at you (BOOM!). For example, Listening to Miss May I’s Hey Mister, they have plenty of chugging sections, but there are those two breakdowns that stand apart from the others simply because the majority of the band’s (seemingly infinite) energy is channeled into those two breakdowns. The problem that the majority of the metalcore genre has, and especially Upon this Dawning, is that 80% of the breakdowns that you hear are those super-energetic ones that should be used sparingly. This alone bothers me almost constantly while listening to this album; the extremely high energy is just way too constant and it’s constant to the point where it stops sounding energetic after a while.

The screams are pretty good, nothing that I have to complain about them. I think it’s the fact that the singing DOESN’T have auto-tune that makes the singing sound so good.  But after about my 11th listen of this album, the singing doesn’t seem to be as good as people might make it out to be (in other words, the singing needs a big “OVERRATED” sticker on it). There are several places where the harmonizations in the singing is absolutely pristine, but that’s about as good as it gets. The guitarist/singer rarely falls out-of-key, which is probably due to studio editing (which isn’t something to hold against them, no singer is perfect, and EVERYONE does some touch-ups on their vocals in the studio). All of the musicians in Upon this Dawning are as mediocre and average as you can get. They all fit the requirements needed to play catchy and energetic metalcore, and that’s all there is to it. So because of that, there’s not really any need for riff-raffing about the members because…well…there isn’t anything to say about them.

Italy’s Upon this Dawning release a generic, but refreshing metalcore record that is definitely worth a listen to metalcore fans. The only time that I would listen to this in the future is when one of their songs pop up while I have all of my metalcore on shuffle. But honestly, I feel that the energetic vibe speaks out to me in a way that makes me enjoy it much more than if it were without that one thing. Also, the complete absence of any common metalcore traits that could be considered disastrous helps a shitload. That’s why I’m going to give To Keep us Safe 13/20.