Thursday, December 12, 2013

Born of Osiris - Tomorrow We Die Alive

Saying that Born of Osiris set the bar extremely high with their last album would be a major understatement. Their 2011 release, The Discovery, was the #1 album of the year for hundreds of people across the globe. One of those people just so happens to be yours truly. Although Fleshgod Apocalypse’s Agony was close behind, nothing that was released that year added up to The Discovery. Not a single album that was released that year left me as satisfied as that album. When a band releases an album that successful and that good, how the hell does one manage to write even a half-decent follow-up?? It’s obvious that critics are going to be referring to the next record as “the follow-up to The Discovery” or something along those lines. But for me, I’m doing to do my best to stay away from that mindset. Because what if the band decided to make a major shift or progression in their style? Would that be fair of me to still compare it to The Discovery like they were both the same exact sounding deathcore? But being the type of band that they are, it’s pretty unlikely that they’re ever going to stray too far from their base style that they’ve helped make popular since the beginning. So after months of not really writing many reviews at all, I’ve been meaning to write a review on this album for quite some time. Born of Osiris’ highly anticipated 2013 release, Tomorrow We Die Alive, is finally upon us; which means that it’s time to dissect this fucking thing and see if it’s worth a rat’s ass.

The Discovery record had many huge progressions in itself, so there’s not really a huge need for the band to get ahead of themselves and make more drastic changes to their sound again. After all, this is only their fourth album (if you consider The New Reign to be a full-length); they’ve laid down a nice path to move along comfortably for the next album or so without having to worry about their sound growing old too fast. These guys are good at what they do; they have a lot of creativity and can write a lot of songs of the same general style without overdoing anything or getting too repetitive. That was the reason why the album Veil of Maya released last year sounded so different from all of their previous works. They most likely didn’t feel that they could write another record like [id] and Common Man’s Collapse without it sounding identical to them. Thankfully, the outcome worked in their favor and landed a spot on my favorite albums from 2012.

I can’t remember exactly when it was, but I remember looking through my RSS feed and seeing that Sumerian Records had posted the first track off the new Born of Osiris album on YouTube. I must’ve just caught them minutes after they made the announcement because the views were still in the single digits when I went to the video. It wasn’t anything special; just one of those “videos” where it plays the song and it shows different parts of the album cover…except the album cover is moving (interesting concept). One look at the artwork and I knew it was the work of Cameron Gray. The guy is an amazing digital artist, but all of his shit looks the same. In the past three or so years, I’ve seen more and more metal bands (primarily deathcore, metalcore, and technical death bands) releasing albums with his art as the cover. If you want examples, some of these bands include Fallujah, Ascariasis, Within the Ruins, Wintersun, and Dead Letter Circus. Tomorrow We Die Alive is the second Born of Osiris record in a row to use this guy’s art.

Anyways, back to the topic at hand. The band had hinted at an increased presence of the keyboards and synths on the new record, which put some people off. So when I noticed that Sumerian had posted this track, the first thing that popped into my head was “oh this had better be fucking good or The Discovery is going to be the biggest fluke in history since Appetite for Destruction”. And I wasn’t kidding either, although I wasn’t going to set my standards as high as a lot of other people, they still had a lot to live up to if they were going to prove that they were actually as good as The Discovery made them sound.

The song posted, titled “Machine”, started with a symphonic intro played by their keyboardist. The melody of the synthesized horns sounded like something the band would write. Then the snare kicked in on top of that with the basic pattern of the polyrhythmic firestorm that was to follow. Then not even 30 seconds in, all of the orchestral sounds come to an abrupt halt, leaving only the guitar chugging out the lead melody. Next, the vocalist leads the rest of the band that releases a sudden drop on you like a comet hitting the earth at full-force. The INSTANT that the song started with this explosion of power, all I could do was smile and think “they fucking did it; they actually fucking pulled it off”. The overall structure of the song itself was that of any other average Born of Osiris song. You hear parts that remind you of “Follow the Signs” and others bringing back guitar sweeps similar to ones heard in A Higher Place. But this song…this one song brings so much force with so much confidence that I was absolutely blown away. I couldn’t stop listening to that track and I HAD to get my hands on the rest of that album the instant it became accessible.

The overall production of Tomorrow We Die Alive is much cleaner and more balanced than any of their previous albums. The New Reign didn’t have enough treble and too much bass, A Higher Place had the opposite problem…too much treble and almost no bass, the guitars in The Discovery tended to drown out the rest of the band at some times when they shouldn’t have. But this time, they finally nailed it. The guitars have a great place in the mix, the distortion is very crunchy, but not too high-pitched and gritty, the kick drums are nice and deep, and everything can be heard at all times. A lot of bands that use keyboards tend to use them in a lot of layers, which in effect drowns everything out. Either that or they use a bunch of layers, and then turn up the guitars, therefore drowning out the keyboards and pushing them too far in the background (this was the reason Agony lost to The Discovery for the #1 spot in 2011). In this album, the keyboards are fairly simple; never more than three layers (as far as I can hear, I’m probably wrong though so don’t take anything I say word-for-word, do your research). The fact that the guitars aren’t super noisy like they were in The Discovery and Agony makes it so that they’re not fighting for the spotlight; the keyboards and guitars can work alongside each other without much trouble.

There aren’t a whole lot of particular “issues” that this album has. It’s more so things that just aren’t enough that makes this not as good as other albums this band has put out. The only thing that I didn’t like about this was the clean singing (i.e. the song “Exhilarate”). I like the idea and I’m glad they decided to try it out, but I just don’t think it works with their sound; they’re much, much better at only doing growls and screams. Maybe down the road, future progressions that they make in their music will allow the clean vocals to sound better with the rest of the music. But for now, I don’t think it really worked out as much as they had hoped. The songs are very tight and have everything you could ever expect from these guys, but the catchiness just isn’t there as much as it was in the first track. Aside from the first song, which is definitely something you should listen to, the album just isn’t as memorable as one would hope. The first track of the record gets the listener hyped up and ready to dive into the rest of the record. And then after the album is finished, the only thing that really stuck to the listener was that first track. But despite that, this album is a more than acceptable follow-up to their 2011 masterpiece and gets my score of 16/20.