Sound — 8
Brooklyn's Unlocking The Truth has been on one hell of a hype train since the internet at large discovered their presence in 2013, and a big record deal with Sony led them to become one of the biggest unknowns in the metal scene. I definitely spent a fair share of my own time wondering "who the hell ARE these guys?," and there hadn't been much to follow about them aside from a few raw live performances on YouTube, until the band released the video for their rap-metal influenced "Take Control." For those who may have been turned off by that performance, you'll be happy to know that there's very little in the way of Slipknot-style rap-metal throughout the rest of the record. Instead, you'll be treated to lots of harsh and clean vocals sung by guitarist Malcolm Brickhouse, whose voice actually sounds far more mature than his age would suggest. The vocal performance is one of the aspects of this record that surprised me in the most positive way, and Malcolm's guitar playing shines through quite well on many of the tracks on the record (especially the ridiculously catchy "Monster" and the dark, quasi-gothic "A Tide"). Alec Atkins' bass performance is deeply seated in the pocket, rarely becoming the lead focus, but gluing the busy drumming style of Jarad Dawkins to the rest of the music. And Jarad is a very excellent drummer, with a lot of focus on fills and heavy hitting (check out his playing at the beginning of "Help Me" for a great example).
Much of the music on this album wears its influences on its sleeve quite well, with the band citing both classic and contemporary bands like Metallica, Disturbed, and Motionless In White. However, one can also hear shades of Slipknot, System Of A Down, Trivium (to the point that "A Tide" immediately reminded me of "Down From the Sky") and even (albeit quite briefly, in the title track) Gojira in their sound. Many of the songs are quite catchy, with huge choruses and big vocal harmony hooks, and harder verses with Malcolm's distinctive shouted vocals. The band often plays around with different tempos in their songs, changing up in a very natural way. The band even unleashes a few very modern sounding "brutal" breakdowns ("Numbing" has a particularly good one). The production is fairly good as well, with some songs sounding a bit more raw and stripped-down when that's the required sound, but more layered and subtle with some of the band's more "epic" sounding numbers.
There are a couple of weaker tracks on the album, specifically "Made of Stone" and "Faywb," which seem kind of a little bit more plodding rather than epic and badass, but these songs are actually not all that bad, just kind of uninteresting. Some of the band's anachronisms, like the rap-metal exploration of "Take Control" or the repetitive structure of "Monster," may not serve to help the band keep their sound overly interesting or fresh, but these are only very minor missteps.
Lyrics — 8
Malcolm Brickhouse's vocals have been one of the bigger mysteries of the band in the early days, with the band opting to perform instrumentally, but his vocals have been one of the biggest surprises on this record. His voice sounds far more mature than his age would suggest, and his unclean vocals are actually quite substantial throughout. But his clean vocals are also a huge treat to the ears, sounding very mature and not overly-produced. Clear and melodic, and much deeper than you'd think of someone his age. There's also a rather untangible quality to his voice that I have a hard time quantifying, but he is a very enjoyable singer to listen to.
Lyrically, the band tackles some of the usual metal topics: personal demons, religion, politics... it's all pretty standard fare for the average metal listener, and there isn't really a lot of depth to the lyrics, and it can actually be a little strange to hear someone barely older than my stepson singing "I am self-destruction/I am everything/I am the things you told me to believe/You are the destruction/But you aren't everything" (from "Monster") or "I've heard the stories that are untrue/Now the ravens sing me to sleep/I see the world, what has it come to/I close my eyes but I'm not sleeping" (from "Ravens"), but there isn't anything egregiously wrong with the lyrics on this record. Definitely, it comes down to the vocal delivery than the words on this record, and that's where Malcolm absolutely delivers, with a very powerful and surprisingly mature vocal performance.
Overall Impression — 8
I was unsure what to think going into this review, this had a lot of potential to go either way in terms of quality, especially with the rather anachronistic-sounding "Take Control," but after giving this album a very fair shake, Unlocking The Truth delivered a surprisingly excellent slab of metal with "Chaos." One that shows its influences quite clearly, but still delivers something that packs a unique punch. And it's quite possible that there may be some that disagree with this assessment, especially given the hype this band has been receiving, but I think giving this album a chance may prove some of the initial naysayers wrong. It rarely comes off as contrived or cheesy, as a lot of projects started by those on the younger side of the teenage years can tend to be, and it's quite clear that this band is being fairly genuine about their intentions on this record.
Sometimes, hype is actually deserved, and I'm happy to say that this is a rare case of that. These boys have done a wonderful job on this record, and even though it's not a perfect record, they still have a lot of potential, and this album is a great start for what could be a long career for them. It won't be long before this band is working out some of the bugs and upping the quality of their music that much more, so I will be watching this band in the future. Definitely going to recommend giving this album a listen.