Review: Aletheian “Dying Vine” CD

This Pennsylvania act demonstrates an incredible level of promise on this disc (which is their second full-length under this band name, they were formerly active under the terribly inappropriate Crutch moniker) with a brand of technical and atmospheric death metal that would seem to be highly influenced by Atheist and Death, but also draws from a few doomier undercurrents on occasion to keep the balance between melodic and complex riffs and heavier, more straightforward power chords and thrash inspired rhythms. Most of the vocals are a fairy aggressive lower midrange snarl that sways towards growls or screams for variation, and they layer in some distant singing on rare occasion to add additional contrast. I can't make up my mind on whether or not I like the vocals, they're definitely not quite as interesting as the music is for me, but they're not holding things back per se, so that's good. "Out From the Shadows" opens with a more energetic sensibility to the guitar layering with some nice alternate picking runs and surprisingly creative and effective staccato rhythms, and overall offers a stronger sense of melody and overall fluidity with some cool acoustic layers and such, so it's one of the most memorable and admirably constructed tracks herein by far. This piece also gives some singing vocals the chance to make a more prominent appearance, and they're not so bad, so that might be something the band should use to contrast the screams/growls more often. "The Dividing Line" is another great achievement in its use of borderline chugging rhythms behind spiraling layers of lead flurries and shifts towards speedy, Cynic-esque picking patterns; while "Call to Arms" continues the relatively linear (yet still very progressive) songwriting path and calls attention to how beautiful some of these solos are. Seriously, these leads reach a level almost never achieved by metal bands anymore, so I'd love to hear these guys strut their stuff even more in that regard (some of which they do in the closing instrumental "Burnt Offerings", though it's really far too keyboard driven for me). The recording's not bad for what was more than likely a self-financed affair. I do think the drums are in dire need of a more natural presence though, as I'm really not feeling the clicky and at times flimsy drum tones, and since the drum performance is often quite flashy these percussive textures aren't doing the guy's playing any form of justice. The bass needs more prominence in the mix as well, as basslines rarely play an important role in the mix. Thankfully the guitars sound fuckin' great, with a crisp yet heavy tone that works well for both the crunchier rhythms as well as the technical runs and the superbly fluid lead bursts. Beyond that, I'd suggest getting rid of the keyboards as they're totally unnecessary, and rarely feel like they're adding to the material. The vocals could also stand to come down in the mix a little since they can become a distraction from time to time, but sometimes they feel okay since there are some minor inconsistencies in the mix. The layout's done entirely in shades of black and gray with hints of gloss overlays to add minor accents, so it looks pretty nice, though at times it's hard as shit to read the lyrics and other text inclusions, and that can be frustrating. While generally fairly open, the fact that a Bible verse or two is cited within the lyrics would of course suggest that the band's "positive" perspective is coming from a christian stance somewhere along the line, but I'll thank them for handling that angle in a way that basically in no way alienates nonbelievers: "Foundations of fabrication suit the desires of the moment, forming a convenient framework of comfort and immunity. This structure crumbles when the sands are swept away. These are only shadows on a wall; easily manipulated, distorted reflections of the definitive core..." So, why a 6/10? Well, because they do need work. This is an outstanding base for the band to build from, but all the same, few of the songs harness the memorable power of "Out From the Shadows", and like many such bands of the more technical variety these guys do tend to fall back on similar sounding riffs and arrangements that can lead to a few lulls in the record where you start to lose interest. They definitely do a good job of keeping the overall running time on the tasteful side, and the songs themselves are never too long at all, it's just that some of the writing is of the class that jumps from riff to riff to riff rather than building and transitioning around central themes, so oftentimes there are little parts (such as an amazing solo, for example) that will jump out as bright spots rather than complete compositions that strike you. They ought to keep the focus on the fluid songwriting and intense melodies, while ensuring that whatever similar sounding riffs are going to tie the material together are the best that the band has to offer, rather than the most typical. Right now their musical abilities are immediately obvious, so they just need to achieve that same level of impact with their actual songwriting and I'll be easily sold. Not bad at all. Hey, maybe Solid State will sign these cats and hook 'em up with a sweet recording budget to help iron out the kinks, eh?

[Hope Prevails]
Running time - 36:50, Tracks: 9
[Notable tracks: Out From the Shadows, The Dividing Line, Call to Arms]
Aletheian -