Sound — 9
Living Sacrifice has always been, in my opinion, a really cool and interesting band to follow. Even though I didn't get into them until after they broke up, I have enjoyed researching the history and continuous shifts in sound this band has, and it is really cool how revolutionary they are as a band, and how little fame they acquired for doing what they did. Thrash, then Death, then their "rebirth" after losing key members into some fusion of metallic metalcore that really can't be described. So this album, coming off of their Reborn album, is truly a great metal album. For those of you that don't know, Living Sacrifice at this point in their career played sort of a mathy form of music that basically is like a metal band playing on a hardcore setup. It is mostly simple riffing with huge breakdowns and solos. Everything they do feels intentional, and none of it seems like they are re-hashing other bands ideas. They were on top of their game. The songs are usually slower tempo and darker than most average metalcore out there, which makes it line up more straightly with the death metal setting of the bands past, but with a fresh, cutting edge vibe. The three albums that are most usually associated with Living Sacrifice's "new sound", Reborn (1997), The Hammering Process (2000), and Conceived In Fire (2002) definitely set the dark atmosphere. This particular album, The Hammering Process, is definitely the slowest of them, but that is not a bad thing. This is definitely atmospheric and dark, starting with the first song "Flatline" and not backing down till the more deathy edge of the closing song "Conditional". "Flatline" is a more urgent song with a killer solo and a simple but sweet riff going throughout. Where Living Sacrifice really shines is how they use the dual guitars of Bruce Fitzhuge and Rocky Gray to create a dark, rich atmosphere and still have complicated rhythms and crazy time signature changes. When Rocky solos, it is not like the note-fest that is on the first three LS albums, either. Rocky is definitely more melodic in his solos, while still shredding hard when he needs to. And again, they add to the song, they aren't there for flash. They make the songs feel more urgent. And to add to that, LS is just flat out heavy. They are really, really heavy in that way that isn't like other bands. Another cool thing is that they have two percussionists. Lance Garvin is a great drummer, and is really adept at changing patterns quickly. He isn't as fast or brutal as his earlier albums or as he would be on "Conceived In Fire", but it really is perfect for this album. And he works with second percussionist/clean vocalist (more on clean vocals later) Matthew Putnam very well, and the drums and the kit Putnam uses (made out of some crazy random objects, like a hub cap) compliment each other well, especially on songs like "Bloodwork" and "Hand Of The Dead". It is subtle, but well done. And bringing in the low end, Arthur Green is a nice tight bassist, and the five of them produce, low, rumbling atmosphere, from the opening riffs of "Flatline" to the greatly placed acoustic guitar solo in "Burn The End". This is a great record. Another thing to note is a lot of heavy bands that want to create atmosphere use low production, but Living Sacrifice doesn't need that. Being with Solid State Records, LS got great production, but still keep that low, urgent, intense atmosphere. And there are almost no computer effects either. This is just a tight band playing a tight form of metal. Awesome.
Lyrics — 10
Guess what? Living Sacrifice is a Christian band, and they never hid that from anyone. They aren't afraid to talk about their faith and they never water their lyrics down. The lyrics are well written and dark. I have said it before and I will say it again: metal is just poetic. It creates atmosphere and the lyrics really fit. Bruce screams of dark things but the lyrics are relevant and make sense. This album in particular deals with cutting away the things that hinder you from spiritual growth and about how sometimes you have to "Flatline" anything that gets in your way. The lyrics are desperate, and Bruce delivers them with a punch. I think that Bruce Fitzhuge, who also plays guitar, has one of the best voices in all of metal. It is unique and you can easily recognize it, and he is just an awesome screamer. It isn't guttural like grind or anything, but it is deep, dark, and intense. He growls like a monster. There is nothing "hardcore" about it, and it fits the music like no other, and blows the vocals of DJ, LS's old singer, out of the water. And on songs like "Altered Life" where he starts out with his intense, raspy whisper, you can just feel it. It hits you and puts you right in the middle of the darkness and chaos. You feel like you are surrounded, and it works so well for the darkness this band creates. As for the clean vocals, get this straight: this is not like Haste The Day, this is not like Sinai Beach, this isn't that scream-o stuff that so many bands pull. There are no scream-during-verse sing-during-chorus type stuff. No, when Rocky Gray and Matthew Putnam do back up singing, it is usually underneath Bruce's growl, and when it is stand alone, it isn't really melodic, nor is it that crappy whining that so many bands use. I really hate that, anyway, LS is not like that so we aren't going to talk about that. Just trust me, it isn't that trendy stuff bands are trying to pull off. Living Sacrifice was never mainstream at all, so they don't use that mainstream singing that a lot of hardcore and metal bands are doing today. Like on "Burn The End" when Bruce growls "compromise will breed corruption" toward the end of the song, it is complimented by clean vocals underneath to add to the sense of desperation. Trust me, and check this out. I give vocals and lyrics a 10, because of how much Bruce's voice rises above almost every other metal/hardcore vocalist today. And because they don't abuse clean vocals.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall, this release is just incredible. It is definitely above average, and Living Sacrifice was the best band Solid State ever had. So if you are against Solid State for having bands like Underoath, Dead Poetic, and Demon Hunter (I don't like that, either), you need to give this a listen anyway. Solid State has some killer bands, don't be fooled by the bad stuff. Time to make comparisons, well, I don't know. It is like deathmetalcore, if that makes sense. They are atmospheric and dark. They are one of a kind, and they were the first to really venture into this style. They left a unique fingerprint on the metal scene, both the secular and Christian, and that can't be disputed. If you like this band, check out Soul Embraced, witch is a side project featuring members of Living Sacrifice. Soul Embraced's first 2 albums give you a good idea of their sound, with some black metal influence. Basically if you like metal or metalcore, then you will like this album. Trust me, and check them out. The most impressive songs are "Flatline", for it's cool lyrics and crazy solo, "Bloodwork" for it's really cool rhythm, "Burn The End" for some sweet acoustic stuff, and all the songs in between. They are really, really talented, and this album is great. Do yourself a favor and check this out. If it got stolen, I would pray that person loved metal and then buy a new copy. It is worth it.