Friday, August 23, 2013

Born of Osiris - "Tomorrow We Die Alive"

In my previous review of iwrestledabearonce's new album, I mentioned I had come full circle on another band. But with this review, I come full circle on my entire blog. Yup, back in 2011 when I started this whole thing, my very first post reviewed Born of Osiris' second full length album The Discovery.

*throws confetti in the air*

I'm going to temporarily set aside my PROS/CONS/VERDICT format during this review for a couple of reasons. First, I feel strangely obligated to do something to mark the occasion. Secondly, I think a straightforward collection of paragraphs would better suit this album descriptively.

So let's dive right in, shall we?

Alright, I have to get this off my chest: I was a little let down by this album.

There's a lot more to say about it, but that's my log line for this post. If you just came here for the synopsis, there it is.

Now, on to the specifics.

I heard the first single - "Machine" (which also happens to be the first song in the track list as well) - back in June when they posted it to their YouTube channel. I tend to have a Facebook tab open at work permanently, so the moment that dropped into my news feed I eagerly queued it up. My reaction to the song - and the song itself - is characteristic of the album as a whole. If you've heard it, you know what I'm talking about. If not, have a listen!

It opens dramatically; a violin riff circles around methodical percussive strikes in a style that calls to mind epic movie trailers or the Uruk-Hai's theme from The Fellowship of the Ring. The snare comes in shortly thereafter to signal a build until the introduction gives way to the song's primary punishment; a barrage of palm-muting in structured sequence overlaid by a guitar lead that mimics the violins from the introduction. Canizaro's vocals descend on the listener with the ferocity we've come to expect as he growls "Take another look at yourself! Tell me, what do you see?" It's pretty standard Born of Osiris; it's big and aggressive, there's some nice interplay between sledgehammer riffs and precision shredding, and the ever-present symphonic and electronic elements from keyboardist/vocalist Joe Buras keep everything from being stereotypical deathcore fare. But I found myself simply satisfied with the song, rather than impressed.

"Divergence," the next song on the album, starts right in with a punch to the face as the primary riff barrels forward without hesitation. Again, the song bears all the earmarks of Born of Osiris' signature sound and carries forward some musical ideas hinted at in the previous track. Additionally, we discover that the album title comes from a refrain that weaves its way in and out of this song with the perfect rhythm to the words, "Tomorrow we die-a-live." Finally, the song concludes with a dubstep-ish breakdown that surprisingly did not deter me - despite my general dislike of the genre. In a visual picture, "Divergence" puts you in a high speed car chase then at the last minute tosses you from the vehicle as it goes full-on Transformers and morphs into a hulking robotic beast. But there's still something vaguely perfunctory about it.

I continued on through the album, expecting something a bit more abstract and progressive to define the overall experience. Those progressive and abstract moments are still definitely here - just not in the quantities I personally hoped. For example during "Mindful," a swift little arpeggio-like riff scurries across the listener's ear in defiance of the song's established time signature. "Exhilarate" employs some yell-singing in a refrain that emerges then melds back into the fracas over its 3-and-a-half minute run time. "Absolution" opens on a pretty and delicate minor 7th scale that defines much of the song, but towards the end the riff evolves. From the typical headbanger schtick, a light and hauntingly futuristic melody soars over some djent-y palm muting as the song goes from fairly straight-laced to a more "space-metal" vibe, similar to Chimp Spanner's music.

There are plenty of things to love about this album; it has some fantastic moments and mountains of metalicious riffage in between. And to give credit where credit is due, songs like "Imaginary Condition" have exactly the kind of blend of progressive elements I was expecting to find. But ultimately, Tomorrow We Die Alive doesn't strike out in new directions the way previous releases have. I am loathe to have this opinion, though I can't escape it, because it's effectively the exact same feeling I expressed in my review for Late for Nothing. It's not a bad album; it's quite good. But it's not really anything more than that - an 11-track CD where every song is somewhere between 3-and-a-half and 4-and-a-half minutes long.

Tomorrow We Die Alive checks all the right boxes and does everything technically right. It's fantastically produced as well, and the Canizaro/Buras vocals are as clear and abrasive as they've ever been. But the album feels uncharacteristically safe; it doesn't really take the kinds of aesthetic risks I've come to expect from Born of Osiris. I don't know if this is because my own musical tastes are evolving and I crave something increasingly bizarre in my heavy music or if the band - subconsciously or otherwise - just decided to play it safe(r) for this release.

Born of Osiris is still one of my all-time favorite bands, and I don't regret going to Hot Topic to pick up this album the day it came out. Ok...maybe I regret going to Hot Topic. But Tomorrow We Die Alive is still an album I'm enjoying - I think I like it better even than A Higher Place in terms of track-for-track appreciation. But after the diversity and scope of The Discovery, I just can't escape some mild dismay that this album doesn't really build on what came before.

Tomorrow We Die Alive is epic and anthemic, but more than a little predictable. It's well crafted and technically precise, but at the cost of experimental and bold. It's a strong album, a powerful one - but lacks the brilliance that made previous efforts stand out.

Having said all that, I'm still getting perplexed stares from motorists on the highway who catch me whipping my head around and swiping at the air like an insane person as Tomorrow We Die Alive pours out of my speakers.

No comments:

Post a Comment