Friday, November 9, 2012

Rings of Saturn - Dingir

Out of all the people that love Rings of Saturn’s first album, I don’t think there were very many (if any at all) that got into it instantly. Just like me, the majority of metalheads out there were either confused or disgusted after hearing Embryonic Anomaly for the first time (I was more disgusted than confused). But then, after about a couple months or so, I decided to go back to it so that I could review it. And woe and behold, I ended up falling in love with it! Especially after witnessing their live performance when I saw them with Decapitated, Fleshgod Apocalypse, and Decrepit Birth, I was hooked. Ok, it’s always understandable that a band’s first album isn’t always going to be the most mature; so what a lot of us (myself included) were hoping for was a much more mature sound on the next record. I will admit, although I do love the hyper-technicality on Embryonic Anomaly, I would have loved there to be more to it than just technicality and a couple of brutal breakdowns. This was when the band released a teaser for Dingir on YouTube that had 30-second clips of each song off the record. And guess what, from what I remember, most of what was on that teaser wasn’t breakdowns OR really high-pitched wankery.

I remember reading a post on the band’s Facebook saying that they were going to experiment a little with polyrhythmic breakdowns (aka djent) more than just simple deathcore breakdowns. Knowing that Rings of Saturn is a VERY tight band, I was pretty confident that they could pull it off. But the trait that Rings of Saturn is known for is that high-pitched guitar shredding that sounds like either alien invaders or a broken arcade machine (listen to Seized and Devoured). For me, there was a little TOO much of than in Embryonic Anomaly. And because I like it, they need to keep that in Dingir, but build a much larger base under it so that it’s not the main focus. The biggest difference between Dingir and Embryonic Anomaly is that Dingir actually has a full lineup. In Embryonic Anomaly, there was the stoner drummer, the really freaky (and amazing) vocalist, and then this blond-haired guy that did all of the guitars AND bass. So really, this blond guy, also known as Lucas Mann, is the primary musical force of the band. In Dingir, we have what appears to be a quintet. There’s the short guy that replaced the live vocalist that replaced Peter after he left, Lucas, a completely new drummer, what seems to be another guitarist, and a bassist. Seriously, the number of lineup changes that have taken place over the past two years is ridiculous; which means that ALREADY, Lucas is the only remaining original member.

Let’s talk about this new vocalist first, because I was pissed as HELL when I saw Rings of Saturn for the second time, only this time missing Peter and his OUTSTANDING stage presence. My first impression of the new guy was that he wasn’t that bad at all, although I was left unsatisfied due to the stage presence that I wanted to see. Most of what he was doing on stage was screaming, not too much growling. That probably means that he’s your average deathcore vocalist that has great screams, but weak and not-so-deep growls. But here’s where it gets interesting. When Rings of Saturn decided to post their album on YouTube, I (of course) didn’t hesitate to listen (since I’m going to buy it when they come to Seattle again anyway). THIS GUY’S GROWLS ARE EVEN MORE BRUTAL AND DEEP THAN PETER’S! My biggest worry was the growls. If the growls weren’t deep and brutal like Peter’s were, I was going to be pissed like nobody’s freaking business. But holy shit, this guy is AMAZING! The screams sound exactly (almost too similar to be realistic) like Peter’s, and the growls are that of a beast with nothing but “kill” on its mind. My first accusation would be that the growls were pitch-shifted in the studio, but even then, if they were, Rings of Saturn doesn’t seem like a band that would make MAJOR modifications to the vocals. So if there’s any auto-tune or pitch-shifting that has been done to the vocals, it’s slight and minimal.

The music itself has much more of a lower end. Let’s take a minute and put the technicality aspect aside and take a look at what the heck is under all of it. In Embryonic Anomaly, almost everything that wasn’t the hyper-technical shredding was the drums; and even that isn’t saying much due to the amount of technicality and speed it had. In Dingir, the drumming is MUCH more creative. There’s much, much more going on than fast double-kicking, blast beats, and generic deathcore patterns. Most of what’s going on is stuff that I have a hard time describing, but that I’ve heard before in the technical death genre that Rings of Saturn call home. The guitars do more now. The amount of really deep chugging and low-ended chords help give the music a stronger sound and an overall fucking BRUTAL vibe, especially during the breakdowns. On top of that, I’m hearing some experimentation going on with keyboards. I first noticed this about halfway through Objective to Harvest, where the whole sound of the song goes in a melodic direction where these weird keyboards come to the front of the line. After that, like a semi driving off the edge of a cliff, the ENTIRE sound of the band drops into what I would call one of the most brutal breakdowns I’ve heard since the breakdown at the end of Whitechapel’s This is Exile.

My favorite part of Objective to Harvest is when the band fulfills their promise by driving into what is one of the tightest djent slams I’ve ever heard. I know that a lot of bands are getting into this whole polyrhythmic breakdown thing to the point where it’s gotten a negative image. But there are actually very few bands that actually pull it off extremely well (i.e. Born of Osiris, Veil of Maya, Wide Eyes, Attack Attack!, etc.), but only a handful of groups have shown me that they can do it VERY tightly and are best at it. These bands include Periphery, Animals as Leaders, Meshuggah (the guys who pretty much invented the whole thing), The Faceless (although they don’t do it that much), Rings of Saturn, and more recently, The HAARP Machine. Embryonic Anomaly was proof that Rings of Saturn has mad skill; Dingir is proof that they don’t fuck around and actually know what the hell they’re doing.

In conclusion, this album is fucking awesome. Rings of Saturn have matured IMMENSELY over the past two-ish years. Although there’s still tons of technicality to satisfy the old fans, there’s much more to it than just that so the people who didn’t like them before can be impressed. In Galactic Cleansing, there’s this random groovy part that I can’t help but mention. My two favorite songs off the record? Objective to Harvest and my #1 favorite track off the album, Peeling Arteries. Probably the most surprising thing about this album is how much more brutal Rings of Saturn have gotten. Everything from the music to the lyrical themes have increased in brutality and violence, which is something that I love to hear in my death metal. For those of you that haven’t read my review on the most technical album of all-time, Embryonic Anomaly, I gave it a 15/20 score. Dingir gets my final score of 17/20. 

For those of you that want an example of Peter's stage presence, click here.