Sound: The Faceless are one of those bands where the first impression is largely decided on who the fans are. Being signed to Sumerian, you'd expect a band full of tosh about how "important" their new and improved breakdown formula is (when it's just the same chord moved from a 6 string to an 8 string) and how "the punk scene is different from the metal scene" and all that media spin.
The Faceless seem to be the most out of place band on their roster. Here is a band expanding and improving the reputation of all metal being lumped along the likes of Asking Alexandria and Upon A Burning Body, two bands who know they're cash cows and are enjoying it.
Initially I thought The Faceless to be along this sort of vein of mediocrity with some technical riffing, but their first album isn't much to go on. "Planetary Duality" on the other hand, the second album, is a marked increase in progression, while nothing completely innovative, there was a lot to defining their sound, including synths, alien atmospherics, infrequent but incredibly unorthodox and beautifully written clean vocals and an absence of generic breakdowns (instead, there's just lots of lovely drumming half time).
"Autotheism" is sort of like, what happens when we really let the musical juice flow? Not just in snippets and titbits, but in full force? To make it kind of clearer, there's a hell of a lot of melody going on here, ranging from the somewhat familiar and approachable sounds of "Create" and halfway into "Ten Billion Years" to the jazzy and overall beautiful sounds of "Eidolon Reality" and "Emancipate", which I should add, is a song heavily influenced by Devin Townsend's "Deconstruction", especially the melodies. In fact, one of the very noticeable features of "Autotheism" is an inclusion of a somewhat tried-and-tested approach to "progness" in extreme metal: "Deconsecrate" has a sort of galactic carnival approach to many of the bridges and heavy use of saxophone, (and speaking of Devin Townsend) "Accelerated Evolution" appears to be influenced by Wintersun and Cynic in terms of riff writing (tremolo picking heaven) but still retaining that uniquely unorthodox Michael Keene harmony and overall there's more focus on juxtaposing clean bridges, breaks and intros next to grinding blast beats and diverse harsh vocals. And another thing, I doubt that there are many guitarists able to compare to Keene's lead guitar writing. Technicality and actual performance, there's better, but very few could top those leads, they sound as close to perfect as possible. // 9
Lyrics: Autotheism is a term I'm not familiar with, but if the song names are anything to go by then we're dealing with some sciencey sh-t. It's as expected, but this band actually has a song called "Hail Science" and take this thing seriously, leaving me to understand that I should put more effort into the lyrics section this time round, but moving on.
Technical bands in general seem to generate pure awesomeness simply by firing a member that can be easily replaced and getting a new one. The Faceless might not be aware of this made-up-on-the-spot theory, but it does show: Removing the second guitarist, bassist and vocalist has opened the door that leads from stewing in technical death metal mediocrity to a major force in the scene. The new vocalist is perhaps the most notable addition, if not by much, but bear with me (again). The previous vocalist sounded much like your typical "deathcore screamy growly" type, but this new guy is more in line with the vocals of Christian Alvestam, Nathan Explosion (yeah I know, cartoon character, but the guys got chops) and Trevor Strnad (is it really Strnad?).
The other side of the vocals (which are now much much much more prominent this album) are by lead guitarist and overall mastermind Michael Keene. At first, his vocals didn't impact quite as well as they could have when I first heard them (Eidolon Reality demo from last year), but it doesn't take long for them to grow, and like his lead playing, are expertly written. There's something really charismatic in his voice, and although his range isn't greatly explored, the musical ideas put alongside fuse fantastically and also, dat vibrato. // 9
Overall Impression: Really, the only bad thing to say is that this album is too short. There's the ending before the beginning, but anyway: There's little else in terms of music (not just metal, but music) that really jumps out with this level of writing. Sure, there are far more "brutalist and deathiest of all the shiny metals" sort of bands (Origin, Brain Drill), but The Faceless have found this niche where their music is heavy enough to be TDM but with enough progression in their music to place them in the crowd of fans of Opeth, Cynic and Dream Theater (if you don't mind crushing blast beats and death growls). This album makes you feel amazing.
Songs to look out for: All of them, but highlights are "Emancipate", "Deconsecrate", "Eidolon Reality", "In Solitude". // 10