To be honest, before this year and the release of this album, I knew nothing of this band and when it was teased on Metal Sucks, No Clean Singing, and a number of other metal news sites, I assumed it would be more of the same pseudo Technical Death wankery known as Deathcore or Djent. To my surprise, the album was far more thoughtful than that. Technical Death Metal exploded in the wake of Meshuggah (as Devin Townsend puts it on Deconstruction: “Even though we all have bands that influence still, we all rip off Meshuggah”) and the reformation of Cynic. The Faceless come from this school of thought, albeit with more a Deathcore influenced “fuck the melody” point of view in their earlier history, it feels.
Autotheism is the practice of self worship, and this album seems to wish to portray the emotions and philosophy behind one’s personal spiritual journey to this point. Lyrically, the album expresses this cleanly and without obvious pretension. Musically, the approach is wide and varied, filled with intensity throughout, yet still is progressively minded and evocative of a mixture of Nine Inch Nails, Meshuggah, Devin Townsend, Opeth, and some Cynic.
The crowning piece of the album is the Autotheist Movement, a song in three parts: Create, Emancipate, and Deconsecrate. The first part opens with a freeform piano and strings with industrial sounding rhythms before building into guitars that carry a 90s grunge feel. The use of clean vocals against the dark backdrop with whispered responses to the cleans lyrics is a nice use of call and response, and the growled to clean call and response is wondrous (it never once comes across as good cop/bad cop). This part of the movement serves as its opening statement of “I have realized I am God,” before punching you straight in the frontal lobe with the ripping deathcore sound and double bass of “Emancipate,” which twists an turns about over the course of its run time. Though, I’m uncertain of the use of the baby’s cries, the use of the chiming sounds of a baby crib’s mobile are a welcome introduction to the song. Ultimately, the growls are quality and evoke a feeling of condemnation whereas the cleans serve to evoke a sense of preaching (in a good way). It is in this song that Opeth style melodic progression occurs and seems specifically used to craft space for introspection; however, it does not pull the listener away from the heavier sections long enough to allow for this. The title of the section is Emancipate and the song is never quite given enough time to do so on its own.
The third section “Deconsecrate” opens with a very Opeth feel and pipe organ in such a way to evoke a church scene through song and the clean vocals truly feel like a sermon. However, the use of Devin Townsend Project’s carnival like sounds breaks the serious tone of the movement far too much and nearly over shadows the good of the music. These interludes which are backed by a wailing saxophone and the clean singer’s haunting voice would have been better served if the carnival sounds had not been included. The return of Industrial elements, combining with the chanting vocals in Latin, build a sense of swelling foreboding darkness that is accented by solid melodic progression to create space and allows the listener time to breath.
“Accelerated Evolution” continues the theme of the album apart from the Autotheist movement and firmly establishes the band’s place in the Technical Death Metal sound. Its most progressive moments are the soaring cleans that evoke the sense of being on the precipice of discovery or a cliff and the industrial rhythms; it roars into “The Eidolon Reality” with almost no respite that continues the sound and theme of the album. The use of Djent here as a way to stretch and break down the atmosphere of the song is stunningly well used and something that I had not yet considered of the sound. “Ten Billion Years” is a rhythmic beast that uses discordance to good effect.
“Hail Science” offers a break in the band’s sound and uses a quote directly from Stephen Hawking regarding the ascension of knowledge above the supernatural sentimentality of the world. It again reinforces the point of this album; however, the selected quote also contains this: “A day will come, when the Faceless will have to say I told you so.” This reeks of vanity and is almost masturbatory in nature. I realize the album is about self worship, I realize it is about the sanctification of knowledge and reason above superstition and myth, but damn it, you do not have the right to declare this of yourself. No sooner did that track end than I wrote in my notes a quote a friend once told me: “ True greatness of anything is inversely proportional to the number of times one declares themselves so.
“Hymn of Sanity” is anything but. It is a return to the raw, ripping, punk influenced core sound and is a rhythmic punch in the face that again uses djent well. Finally, aside from the Autotheist Movement, the final song of the album “In Solitude” is its most successful. I truly enjoyed the quiet, acoustic experience that crafted a hermetic feel and positively enjoyed the use of strings. The Djent inspired rhythm to break the acoustic veneer was positively stunning and the Technical Death Metal sections are truly wondrous in their indignation, especially in the use of the growl/clean duet with the synth and soaring guitar. It evokes a near dreamlike trance state in sound.
In sum, The Faceless have provided a change of sound and offered their first progressive minded album. It is a good beginning that will not fully be realized until their next piece. They use the concept of the album well and approach it, creating a group of nine songs that are intertwined. I really enjoyed the use of the industrial elements in the album and their use of djent. They did a good job of describing that about which they wanted to discuss openly and without pretension; however, they do divulge into that Oh So American Metal use of Egotism with the selected Hawking quote. In the end, however, I look forward to their next effort and hope that this is the seed of sound the band continues to develop. They have the capability to be a great American Progressive Metal band; something that there is not enough of in this country. It is truly an American experience in sound: openly preachy, by design, and stunningly egotistic.