Sound — 3
Back in 2006, every ultra-brutal scene kid loved As Blood Runs Black. And while I wasn't exactly a brutal scene kid (mother would never let me wear those colorful shirts), I did enjoy their debut album "Allegiance". The C Minor chug riffs, use of every vocal style imaginable, and the concept of using two or three breakdowns per song appealed to me at the time. But after the initial admiration of a band who managed to constantly increase their fanbase while doing absolutely nothing faded, I realized how bland and predictable the music was. Granted, I could still get down to "Allegiance" if I was in the mood (more for nostalgia's sake than anything), but this band literally took everything that the modern metalcore scene had already done and mixed it all together. It just isn't interesting. Now, if Instinct had come out in 2007 or 2008 when everyone was expecting it to, I'd have probably liked it just as much as I liked "Allegiance" as a kid. But here's the thing. "Instinct" wasn't released in 2008. This is 2011. Different decade, same garbage. And I'm not saying that to try to be harsh or anything, but this band hasn't progressed very much if at all in the past five years since their last album. Five years! What have they learned in those five years? Not much more than they already knew, apparently, except for how to rip off some of their contemporaries (fitting that they're going on tour with Caliban). The intro, "Triumph", sounds completely Black Dalhlia Murder-esque. I'll admit, the intro had me excited, feeling like a giddy high-schooler again. But "Legacy" started up and then I realized: I'm 21, this is 2011, I'm minute into the first song and I'm already disappointed in the album. It sounded like they took a song from "Allegiance" and put some Within The Ruins riffs over it. And as much as I didn't like the last Within The Ruins album, they do the whole quirky hammer on noodling riff thing a lot better. Little has changed about the band, except for maybe the amount of notes they're willing to shove into a given amount of space. And unsurprisingly, it's all the same notes, just played in different orders. Anybody who has either spent far too much time listening to metalcore or is critical of the modern scene (I guess I'm both) will know what I'm talking about when I say these guys abuse the "0-8-7-5" riffs. Some of their new songs literally sound like their old songs played backwards. And don't get me started with the breakadowns. I love a good breakdown, but I hate a needless one. Alright, so the music is slightly more technical than before, and I'll admit, there's a pretty nifty solo or two stashed in the album somewhere. But overall, this is just genericore. I feel like they recorded this album years ago and lost it under a desk and decided to party until they found it. Then they brushed it off, put some vocals on it, and released it. There's no progression from the wannabe horror-soundtrack metal that they've always been. I will give them some credit, though, their last track (the title track of the album), was actually surprisingly good. Musically, it doesn't have much separating it from the rest of the album except for the fact that it's really well executed. It has some sort of quality to it that the other songs are lacking that just makes you take it a bit more seriously. The melodies and the music have a bitter, yet remorseful and introspective theme to them. One of those "walking away" kinda tracks. It was the only time throughout the album where I felt like I could actually pull something deeper than "I'm angry" out of the music. There's a pretty cool bass solo in there, too. Shame that none of the other tracks live up to the final one, though.
Lyrics — 5
So the new vocalist isn't that bad. I mean, the old one was better, but the new guy gets the job done. His lows sound like a short, less beefy Howard Jones, his highs sound like a less beefy version of that guy from All Shall Perish. I mean, it suffices for this type of music. Definitely isn't as versatile or as interesting as the old guy, though, who used to be a selling point for the band. Lyrical themes deal with many of the pseudo-tough guy ideals found in many of today's "metalcore" bands who claim affiliation with the hardcore scene, which include, but are not limited to: honor, rebellion, resistance, perseverance, personal struggles, etc. Alot of it sounds really positive, to be honest. Like, a motivational speech or something. I guess it's better than violence and sadness or whatever it is you find in deathcore these days. Hey, at least they're not jumping the "concept album about the downfall of man" bandwagon that everyone does these days. In fact, I think that's the most positive thing I can say about this album, the lyrics are probably the best part. But, there's not much else I can say.
Overall Impression — 3
The problem is that in the five years since their last album, every other band in the scene has already made this record. And most other deathcore bands still surviving with a good amount of popularity all bring redeeming qualities with them to the table, but what do As Blood Runs Black bring? I don't see it. As a former fan, I feel like I have the right to say "how on earth did these guys manage to increase their popularity, much less maintain it?" Take everything I say with a grain of salt, though. I'm not really into deathcore as much as I was years ago. I don't go out of my way to listen to bands of this ilk anymore, but I just had to see what four years of hard work resulted in for this band. But while other bands have moved forward (JFAC dropped the "-core", Born Of Osiris finally released a decent album, Bring Me The Horizon actually write music now), ABRB have been running in circles. Granted, they're running a tad bit faster, but still in the same circles. Some of you will disagree with everything I'm saying about this band, claiming that the new album is good and that I'm either an elitist or I just don't get it. Maybe this is true. Maybe it isn't. I'd like to say it isn't, given the fact that I used to be a fan of As Blood Runs Black. But I can't think of any good reasons anymore to listen to a band that just personifies the stagnant nature of the modern "metalcore" scene. I may listen to the track "Instinct" again a few more times in the future, but other than that, this album just doesn't do it for me.