Monday, November 23, 2015

Fit for an Autopsy - Absolute Hope Absolute Hell

Ok so as promised, I have my “part two” review of this Fit for an Autopsy thing that I’m doing. Being hopeful that you decided that you wanted to read the review I wrote of Hellbound before reading this one (it’s okay if you decided against it), I know that I’m going to do quite a bit of comparing of the vocals between this album and the last. If you DID decide to read the last review, you are already well aware that vocalist Nate Johnson is my main attraction to this band (I’m pretty sure that was the case with most people). That being said, if you never really followed this band during their career, you missed the actually unsurprising news that Nate Johnson jumped ship almost immediately after Hellbound’s release. The band even said in their Facebook post that they had been “Nate Johnsoned”. So yes, yet again, the dude quit for whatever reason (this time it was right when they were about to go on tour) without a single word to the public.

The tour that they were about to go on was actually one that I attended. Given the praise that I poured out to this band in my review of Hellbound, you can safely assume that I was fucking excited to see them. But of course, the Fit for an Autopsy that I saw was not the same band that I was hoping to see. Quick replacements aren’t easy, but fortunately some long haired guy named Greg Wilburn immediately stepped up to the plate to ensure that they would still be able to go out on tour. As much as I can respect and praise people that take those kind of risks (learning an entire setlist in a few days isn’t easy), Greg sucked. Not only did he barely do any deep growling, his overall vocals were utter shit. I was upset and disappointed. Then not even a few months into their touring cycle, the band announced yet another change in vocalists (hopefully due to a large amount of negative feedback regarding Greg). For whatever reason, I was so stuck in the “Nate set the bar so high that I will never be content with anyone else fronting this band” that I never even bothered to check out who Joe Badolato was or what he sounded like. Well, he’s managed to stay in the band long enough to be the frontman on the band’s new album in the place of Nate Johnson.

I’m trying my absolute best to not make the vocals take up the entire review, so I’m going to start out with the overall style and execution of the music. If you read my last review, the theme of Hellbound was groove. Apart from the vocals, this is still my favorite part about that album; especially when you put it next to their debut, which is pretty much as straight-forward and stripped-down as deathcore can get. This new album kind of sits halfway in between those two albums…well in some ways it does and in other ways it doesn’t. It’s definitely much more straight-forward and basic than Hellbound, but it’s not as raw and repetitive as their debut. Probably the best way I can put it is that it’s a fairly generic deathcore album but many of the things that are executed throughout the duration of it don’t feel generic in the slightest bit. It’s a similar feel to Hellbound, where they make a traditional-sounding album using non-traditional methods. Except this time, the non-traditional methods are far, far fewer. The groove is still there; stronger in some places and weaker in others, but it’s nowhere near as attention-grabbing.

I don’t even need to say anything about the brutality…actually yes I do, because it’s far less than the past two albums, and guess who I’m going to blame for that, Nate Johnson. Without straying from what I’m trying to focus on, I’ll get back to him later. The brutality is still a primary element, but the breakdowns especially are far less interesting. Yes there are some great drops in the title track, Saltwound, and Storm Drains (a nice crushingly slow one), but there isn’t anything memorable other than that. Although everything was executed cleanly and with thought, none of the other breakdowns left me splattered all over the walls in pieces thinking “holy shit what the fucking hell was that”.

Moving on, the production seems to have gotten better and better with each release. So have they been changing producers? No guess who’s been one of the guitarists in the band since day fucking one: Will Putney. Don’t recognize that name? He has produced/mixed/engineered/mastered (either all or a combination of more than one of those) many albums including (but not limited to) No Time to Bleed by Suicide Silence, Hate and Holy War by Thy Art is Murder, Necrocracy by Exhumed, Structures’ Divided By, all three of Upon a Burning Body’s full-lengths, In Dreams by After the Burial, and many more (primarily) deathcore and metalcore albums since 2005. So why was the production on the first Fit for an Autopsy album so shitty? Well who knows, maybe he was trying to achieve what he did on Divided By and Hate where he basically blew out everything.

Okay let’s talk vocals now. I’ve done my best to listen to this with as much as an open mind as possible, doing my best to forget that Nate Johnson was ever in the band. When you put this album all by itself without any of its predecessors, it’s actually one of the best generic deathcore releases of the past few years. THANKFULLY this vocalist isn’t anything at all like what the temporary live replacement was. This guy can actually growl. He has volume, power, range, and emotion. He executes every song to the best of his abilities and gives 100%. Does he sound good with the band’s music? Yes he most definitely does. Would I ever choose this album over the other two Fit for an Autopsy records or recommend it first? Hell fucking no. The vocals are a good fit, they chose a good replacement, but just like Through the Eyes of the Dead and assumingly all the other bands Nate has been in, he joins, enables the band to release the best album(s) of their career, then leaves almost immediately with a bar set so high that next to no one can reach it. The growls are good, but they’re not deep enough to make me happy. Fortunately, Fit for an Autopsy did a better job at bouncing back and maintaining their relevance and popularity than any other “Nate Johnsoned” bands have.

They did good but not quite good enough in my book. Of course, the majority of their fanbase have been more than happy with Joe as the new vocalist, but I’m pretty sure everyone knows that their music will never be quite as good. As I mentioned before, the music is far less attention-grabbing. It has numerous spots that grab ahold of you and rips you to pieces, but the album eventually drones on and leaves you with a sub-par follow-up to Hellbound. Would I ever go off and listen to this specific album on my own time? Probably not. But it’s DEFINITELY an above-average deathcore album and there are a lot of far worse things being released right now. And if you are at all a deathcore fan or a fan of this band, this album is going to be more than enough to satisfy you with its crushing breakdowns, sweeping solos, and driving grooves. It’s just not enough for me, Nate Johnson and Hellbound set the bar too high. This gets a 14/20 from me.