Sound — 8
Born of Osiris have come a long way since their deviation from the metalcore sound they employed prior to getting signed by up-and-coming label Sumerian Records. In 2007, the band released 'The New Reign' - the twenty-one minute key to their current success and popularity. With this 2009 sophomoric effort, it seems the band have taken that popularity and used it to propel a new, rather different sound that seems to have had a 'make or break' impact on their fans. While their previous release was laden with breakdowns and heavy, in-your-face keyboard leads, extensively making use of the chug/melody duality popular among the 'sumeriancore' (a subgenre of progressive deathcore named for the label that tends to sign such acts) bands that have taken root in the prog/-core scene, their new album seems to have all but abolished their previous sound; their synth being reduced to something of background noise, their tone less heavy and far more trebly, and their breakdowns virtually non-existant. One might assume the band had been planning something of the kind since their first release, considering the significant change in sound. As if their commerical act was a kind of fanservice to pave the way for a more mature, progressive feel. Whatever the case, let's dive into this album and pick apart the finer points of each track. 01. Rebirth: an intro and the shortest track on the album. Immediately you can hear the outro to 'The Takeover'; the last track on their previous album. If one were to listen to both albums all the way through chronologically, the difference would be noticeable however; it's not the most gapless transition. But points for creativity. It's not a very interesting intro though. Nor is it much of a transition to the next track. 7/10 02. Elimination: a pretty damned badass track. Right away you can hear the difference between AHP and TNR. The tone is far different. It's laughable how much one could visualize their choice in mixing (Drive: Down; Mids: Down; Bass: Way Down; Treble: WAY Up!). We get some heavy riffage right off the bat. A bit of dissonance, a bit of groove. The keyboard gets a a choir section and a sick little lick before the melodic passage near the middle of the song. Right after our understated lead, we get the most epic part of the song; a chuggy, minor third-intervaled thirty seconds with choir fade-ins and an amazing background piano. Honestly, it feels a little incomplete due to the piano not repeating its second bar set as the guitars fade out, but once one's ears grow accustomed to the lack of fill, a fan of this album might find this their favorite track. I wouldn't do anything different. 10/10 03. The Accountable: thirty seconds in and we get some sick, scratchy natural harmonic groove riffs. Though it appears the whole album's tone is a bit scratchy, it's quite a fun part to listen to and it seems to be the most out-of-time segment on the album. From this track, listeners can already tell this album is going to be a rather different experience. It already sounds rather progressive-oriented; the '-core' almost completely gone. On top of that, it's pretty easy to tell that BoO had been listening to more progressive metal acts than sumeriancore pioneers Veil of Maya since their last album. With a little less than a minute left on this track (the song length since their last album definitely hadn't changed much), we get a brilliantly epic lead and an outro that reminds us how hard it is to tell the guitar tracks apart for this particular release. 8/10 04. Now Arise: 3:53? That's dangerously close to four minutes, Born of Osiris! It seems this track is something of a nod towards their less-influential influences, including blast beats, more dissonant chords, and unmuted notes. In fact, there's quite a bit of unmuting on this album. While most bands - especially those in groove metal - focus on heavier, fully palm-muted measure-driven riffs and only use unmuting on a few tracks, BoO seems to use this guttural guitar sound on most of this album. At any rate, we get some more background keys and buildup to the minute-or-so outro that sounds straight out of a hip-hop verse. Honestly, the harsh screamed vocals at the end of this song could easily be interchanged with rapped lyrics! 8/10 05. Live Like I'm Real: first thing we hear? More unmuting. This actually goes for about a minute or so before we get a somewhat ridiculous-sounding break and more unmuting. Though BoO has abandoned their breakbeat sound, the transitions all start coming rather suddenly. Regardless, one might forgive this considering the amazing lead we get with three-quarters of a minute left accompanied by a backup guitar track echoing the end of the lead every other run-through and the perfectly-fitting bass drum to compliment it. 8/10 06. Starved: already, my impression would be that Born of Osiris has grown tired of their breakdowns and keyboard leads or are simply holding them off for a more TNR-like track, but the latter would be further unconfirmed by the end of this darker-sounding track. More unmuting with some evil lead in the background starts this song off... actually, this is most of the song. To be honest, there isn't much special about this track until the very '80's-sounding synth instrumentation that transitions beautifully into this song's outro. 7/10 07. Exist: my favorite track on this album. While most of this song (and every song on this album) is in 4/4, songs like this are evidence that BoO found a new trick to replace their rhythmically broken style from TNR. Mostly involving off-beat syncopation involving tossing a rest at the beginning of each riff. The majority of this song is minor third and tritone interval and harmonization or tapping (melodically or using the aformentioned style). Lots of cool, broken-sounding riffs and one of the closest things to a breakdown the more -core fans might find appealing, though it's about a bar and a half long. BoO also seems to be employing less conventional keys for the rhythm during the melodic parts (a common practice in mathcore). As with most tracks so far, the sickest part is probably the outro. I can only say 'go listen!', as I couldn't begin to describe the sheer amount of amazing this technical, energetic break BoO offers. 10/10 08. Put to Rest: aw, more unmuting? Well, it's not particularly impressive but I suppose it's not as static as it could be... okay, maybe it is. I do appreciate this new style but the sheer amount of simplistic riffing they toss in these verses makes me miss their old sound a bit. Regardless! This song does have some awesome leads and gives us a slow, epic outro that fades into another amazing effort for this release. 8/10 09. A Descent: immediately, we get a melodic intro worthy of remembrance with a sick drum fill to tie the repeat. The break transitioning this intro into the rest of the song has an amazing lead. Just past a minute we get an actual breakdown that still doesn't last more than a few seconds. The rest of this song is pretty much unmuting and jazzy keyboard passages. It ends a bit suddenly with what seems to be no conclusion, but this song definitely has some of the best melodies AHP has to offer. 9/10 10. A Higher Place: the title track and actually one of my lesser-liked songs. The main riff and its variants are generally dull and a bit nervewrecking. The lead past a minute in is kind of fun and saves the song from just being a general flop (what with its strange intervals and uninteresting theme). It does bring up a good time to mention that the vocals are astoundingly different from TNR. They're definitely more mature-sounding, yet at the same time throatier and screechier (their keyboardist actually does some backup vocals on this album as well). This is probably understandable considering how young the band was at their signing. 5/10 11. An Ascent: the lead for this song starts off rather appealingly but drops back for a more unusual interval. This then transitions into some unmuting that's actually rather interesting and groovy. Almost halfway through the song, we get a pretty cool lead you might expect at the end of one of these tracks and some entertaining verse afterwards. There's a part towards the end of the song that actually sounds a bit Catch 33-ish before it fades away. 8/10 12. Thrive: by now, one might find themselves tired of this new sound. In all honestly, this album could've cut off these last two tracks and still have been a solid album. Regardless, they're both worth a listen for those that appreciate this lean towards a more progressive sound and can tolerate the slight monotony. Personally, I didn't like much of this track until probably the last ten seconds. 6/10 13. Faces of Death: last track on this album and thirteenth in total. Like a few other tracks, it's not particularly memorable but does have some nice leads. Seems to just be something of an experimental track. Had they made some of this album gapless, the lack of power each individual (and very short) track would've been made up by the continuing theme of the previous. When one takes the time and listens to the lyrics, everything feels very sudden and rushed; or rather squeezed; into a small time frame. To be honest, this album feels more quantity than quality and it definitely detracts from the jawbreaking feel of the first album (which clocks in at less than 2/3's the length of this one). 6/10
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics appear to be in the same vein as the first album. However the vocals are definitely delivered in a much more subtle way. Like a lot of progressive metal bands, the vocal tracks (provided by both main vocalist Ronnie Canizaro and keyboardist Joe Buras this time) are closer to another instrument than anything. Truthfully, the delivery feels generally weaker than the previous album, the band having chosen to tone down the power and make the lyrics less audible. While they do feel more grown-up than TNR, they aren't nearly as engaging and they seem somewhat sloppier.
Overall Impression — 8
Against their previous album, I like The New Reign better. It's more musical, more complex rhythmically, and (while not altogether a good thing) a little more commercial. Regardless, this release should at least satisfy the band's fans from the previous album. Again, it's a make-or-break deal with this one as it has quite a different sound. Those who love the sumeriancore sound that launched their career should stick to The New Reign and take a look at bands such as Veil of Maya or After the Burial. Those who appreciate the less commercial, more transitional vein of progressive music might find this album worth a listen. Overall, the strongest tracks on this album seem to be Elimination, The Accountable, Exist, and A Descent. They're all worth listening to and I'd recommend trying them before the rest of the album.