A Past Unknown has been using social networking sites to their advantage in order to get their name out there in the world. This is the same reason why new bands such as Rings of Saturn and Strychnia have been trending on Facebook and Twitter. Although I go on Facebook every once in a while, Twitter is where I’m the most active. And one thing that I will say is that A Past Unknown is no longer the underground metalcore band I’ve been going to see for free for the past year or so. Because I’m friends with the vocalist’s brother (who lives in my area), he’s always been updating me on what A Past Unknown has been up to. I reviewed their first album some time ago and I remember saying that although it’s a very catchy and energizing record, there’s a lot of room for improvement, which is EXACTLY what I expect from a debut, because it’s hard to come up with a good follow-up record to a flawless debut. Anyway, I signed up for Twitter roughly a month before Vainglory’s release date. And if there’s one thing I remember about the album’s release, it’s that after getting repeatedly annoyed by the band’s repeated ads and “check us out!” messages, I witnessed a swarm of positive feedback and rave reviews from possibly hundreds of people worldwide. Of course, I was one of the people that, out of support for the band, decided to buy the album on its release date; I understand why this album has caused so much fucking hype.
So that I can do some compare and contrast with Vainglory and To Those Perishing, I’m going to restate some of the stuff I thought the band could work on from their first album, To Those Perishing. The majority of the problems I had with To Those Perishing are the problem I have with just about every metalcore album I have problems with. That problem is having too many breakdowns. In A Past Unknown’s case, the problem was not only having too many breakdowns, it was that 80% of those breakdowns were very minimalistic, simple, and boring. To Those Perishing had its moments, the biggest one being the sixth track off the record, titled The Critic; which contained beautiful melodies, crushing breakdowns, and a cacophony of colorful harmonizations. Beyond that, the rest of the “interesting parts” didn’t go anywhere beyond a catchy breakdown tempo or an interesting guitar lead. The rest of the album was just above average, giving my ending score for To Those Perishing 14/20. If they could fix that breakdown thing and put more interesting shit in there while still keeping their jumpy and energetic personality, I would be much happier.
The first sign of mass improvement that Vainglory shows is musicianship; both skill and creativity. Obviously due to a few minor lineup changes, the style that some of the members play on Vainglory is different than that of To Those Perishing. The first is the drums. The drumming on Vainglory is not only much more interesting, it’s more colorful and experimental. The fills that are used differ from each other, the kick drum patterns during the breakdowns can be anywhere from simple and generic to random blasts of speed and complexity. I have nothing against the simple breakdown drum pattern, but the variety of styles and patterns used by the drummer helps take away any sense of monotony. On top of just being more interesting, the drums express much more skill that I feel To Those Perishing was missing. Along with that, the breakdowns themselves are fewer in number and greater in variety. Every metalcore band throws in a simple breakdown here and there, no matter how technical or complex they are, so of course there are a couple of the typical down-tuned simple breakdowns. But those are contrasted by either breakdowns with a lot of atmospheric guitar melodies and melodic vocals or by breakdowns with complex polyrhythmic patterns. The different breakdowns also differ with tempo and pitch. One of the much more interesting breakdowns in Vainglory takes place two minutes into the eighth track, Divided.
The vocals have more variety in them as well. The vocals in To Those Perishing consisted of mid-range screams with the occasional high-pitched scream and some singing every once in a while. In Vainglory, the mid-range screams are still the dominant vocal style, but they’re a little more high-pitched than the ones in To Those Perishing and have a considerably greater amount of energy and emotion. Also, you can hear growls, high-pitched screams, yelling, and a lot more singing, which is yet ANOTHER factor that has helped fix the monotony problem To Those Perishing had.
You can tell by now that I felt To Those Perishing to be a monotonous record, despite all of the great qualities it had. I’ve also stated a few major factors that I feel are contributors to the fact that Vainglory ISN’T monotonous and boring. The one thing that I have yet to say is what I feel is the biggest contributor to that, and that is dynamics. I actually just realized this about a week ago, I had an underlying feeling that something from To Those Perishing was missing, and a week ago, I realized that To Those Perishing was missing dynamics; THAT was the reason why so many people felt it didn’t have enough energy and was monotonous, although it had potential. Now that I’m listening to Vainglory, what do I hear? DYNAMICS! The contrasts in volume help tone down the calmer parts and throw down the heavier parts like something really, really heavy. The energy that Vainglory carries is one that can only be understood once it is heard, and it’s primarily due to the fact that the fucking thing has dynamics, and it is BEAUTIFUL. Purpose, Cursed, Reason to Fear, and The Search are all perfect examples of the colorful dynamics used in Vainglory, A Past Unknown style.
To Those Perishing was a great debut because it left plenty of room for improvement. Now that the ultimate power titled Vainglory is now upon us, I think it’s safe to say that A Past Unknown is one of the better and more interesting metalcore bands of our time. Some of the things they do aren’t what metalcore fans would expect, there’s variety in just about everything, and most of all, there are fucking dynamics! Vainglory takes its rightful place alongside Miss May I’s At Heart, Mnemic’s Mnemesis, and As I Lay Dying’s Awakened as one of the best metalcore albums released in 2012. Vainglory gets my score of 16/20.