Chaos review by Unlocking the Truth

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  • Released: Jun 17, 2016
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8 Superb
  • Users' score: 6.7 (38 votes)
Unlocking the Truth: Chaos
3

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.

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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.

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38 comments sorted by best / new / date

    IAmSpoderman
    his voice reminds me ALOT of robb flynn. the music didn't really do it for me, but these guys have got a lot of time to find their own sound. I gotta say though, the chorus to numbing is pretty cool.
    travislausch
    I kind of expected the comment section to be full of opinions when I was writing it. Let me just clear the air a little here: 1) I actually did enjoy the album. Yes, it's generic. I listen to a ton of odd, progressive and experimental music that is about as far removed from "generic" as one can get. But I still enjoy some stuff that's generic from time to time, because guess what, I actually have an open mind about music and am willing to give a band a fair shake. And yeah, sometimes I just don't feel like listening to odd meters and phrygian dominant modes and polymeters and drop-Q tuning. I grew up with shit like Boston, Metallica, In Flames, Disturbed, Korn and System Of A Down, bands that are pretty far from being the most innovative experimental bands out there. That's honestly going to reflect in my reviews too. Fact is, I enjoyed this record because it reminded me of a lot of the stuff I grew up listening to. 2) While I do the best that I can to make my reviews somewhat objective (which is impossible to do considering how music is a completely subjective experience anyways), I have to consider how I personally felt about the record. I went into it wanting to give it a much lower score, especially when I heard the first single. But I also wanted to give the band a fair shake and not just let internet hype (and users' reactions to it) dictate how I was going to review it. I happened to enjoy the record, therefore it got a decent score. Maybe I am biased (though not against modern sounds. I happen to love djent, but Architects does nothing for me, and I would probably agree with the team review), but I try not to let it affect my reviews. Either way, I expected a lot of people would disagree with me on my review. I get that, and I respect it because music is a subjective experience and I can't expect everyone to like what I like, nor can you. But no, I didn't get told to write a glowingly positive review (look at my Beartooth review if you want an example of me mostly shitting all over a record!), and when you get a review from me, you're getting what I actually think about the record. Thanks
    Iommianity
    "I grew up with shit like Boston, Metallica, In Flames, Disturbed, Korn and System Of A Down, bands that are pretty far from being the most innovative experimental bands out there. That's honestly going to reflect in my reviews too. Fact is, I enjoyed this record because it reminded me of a lot of the stuff I grew up listening to." So, since you like this album because you grew up on well crafted, melodic, catchy music with mass appeal that was as well played as it was written, you give this it a pass? If you like it you like it, but that context makes no sense to me. Unlocking The Truth has more in common with Korn and Disturbed than any of those bands, but at least they all honed catchy songs and gained success on the back of their hard work and were at the forefront of what they were doing in terms of trend setting. Whether you listen to avant garde music or pop, the question is "Is this worth listening to over bands who sound similar, and would I take the time to listen to them over anyone else?". How you answer that is completely up to you, but it's pretty lame that you listed all those bands with mass appeal, meticulously crafted songs that have withstood the test of time, as if any of them lucked out on a contract due to a viral video in lieu of years of hard work honing their craft. And all of those bands have caught shit as if their latest work was indicative of their entire career. They don't get a pass These guys aren't there yet, and that's absolutely okay. But how many hundreds of albums are released every week, let alone ones comparable to this, that don't have a person congratulating them for their potential over their work. An 8 rating for this..obviously context matters when judging a band, but where the hell do they go from 8? They're 2 away from their personal masterpiece? The room for improvement with this album is minor? Then doesn't that kind of undercut whatever potential they may have? The idea isn't that this album isn't smart enough, it's that there's dumber music that's still better.
    travislausch
    Well, if you want to get that pedantic about it, sure, you're right, I'm absolutely wrong. All I know is, I asked to review this album because I'd give it a fair chance and ignore the hype and the age factor and focus on the music. And it was a pretty decent album. And yes, I'd listen to it, maybe not over other similar bands, but it stands pretty well alongside them. As for ratings, to me, an 8 is "pretty good". Not "two away from a masterpiece". Again, treading dangerously into extremely pedantic material here. I almost think of it like a logarithmic scale. 1 to 4 is pretty much shit no matter which way you slice it, 5 to 7 is a pretty wide range of "mediocre to average" kind of records, but then 8 to 9 to 10 are huge leaps. 8 is a good record that's actually somewhat worth listening to, even if it has some flaws. 9 is probably AOTY material. 10 is reserved for stuff that's pretty obviously going to become a classic. But the leap from 7 to 8 is microscopic compared to 8 to 9, in my mind.
    Iommianity
    Lol there's nothing pedantic about it. You're the one who takes paragraphs to say the album wasn't as bad as it could be and then used non sensical examples of bands you like, like being a fan of some of the most popular song smiths of our time is a context for digging this. I'm responding specifically to what you wrote, because one of these bands is not like the others. Ah well everyone, myself included, has guilty pleasures. Nothing wrong with calling a spade a spade, it's not a reflection of the validity of your opinion or taste, it's just being honest. If a review doesn't the answer the simple question of "Would I put this on before literally anything else, any kind of genre or style from country to hip hop to metal.", then the album is probably bad.
    travislausch
    "If a review doesn't the answer the simple question of "Would I put this on before literally anything else, any kind of genre or style from country to hip hop to metal.", then the album is probably bad." I don't think a good album needs to be "put before" any other album. You can have good albums that are worthy alongside other records. Or even good records that are not as good as many of the "classics". If I thought that what makes a good album is being better than the records it's being put alongside, I'd never give a rating higher than a 7. Again, it comes down to how I rate things. 8 is NOT "two away from a masterpiece". 8 is just an album I can mostly enjoy from front to back and not feel like I was ripped off. 7 is around the tipping point of an album going from "mediocre" to "good", kind of like how anything below a 50% in a class is a fail, 50% to 70% is kind of mediocre, 70% to 90% is average, and only 90% and up is exceptional. I never once said this album was completely groundbreaking or exceptionally original in my review. It's a perfectly average record, and that's not an entirely bad thing. I'm sorry you don't see it that way and I don't get why you're so adamant about calling out the choices in bands I compared it to. As far as I'm concerned, the bands I listed are all bands whose albums would also get a consistent "8" from me, whether they were made by classic and "timeless" songsmiths or not. I find them quite comparable in quality. Edit: And yeah, it kind of is a context for digging it. Reviews, as objective as I try to make them, are opinion pieces. And in my opinion, being a fan of those bands that I'd put at a comparable quality level does give a bit of context to me enjoying this album. Again, going into it ignoring hype, as well as ignoring expectations of other artists. I call it as I see it, and I see a lot of the "classic" bands I listed as being about the same in terms of quality. Maybe I just view the music written by such classic artists differently than you (along with most people) do? Again, it's an opinion piece. I guess I should be apologizing that my opinion is not the same as yours?
    EpiExplorer
    All they gotta do is break away from rehashing the most basic of genres and they'd be in a great musical position. As it stands, this just going to get ignored.
    HugoPan
    I think that it's a good record. not groundbreaking by any means, but it's a nice debut. let's hope that they continue to grow
    Voodoochile711
    I honestly still don't really know why this band got so much hype. Listened to the album just out of curiosity, and while it sounds better than a bunch of kids messing around, that's about all I can say about it.
    Humbug808
    Lol I hear a tad of Rob Flynn in his vocal. But seriously, sounds exactly like what it is, 3 early teens trying to write metal. Even with the producer(s), it still comes off as kinda amateur sounding. The labels should give kids like this more time to develop. Maybe if they were 17 or 18 they could actually write decent songs. If anybody else wrote songs like this I'm about 100% sure they would not get a deal with Sony. Gimmicks man....
    Voodoochile711
    Sad thing is now society has given them zero incentive to try and get good...
    RustedWithin
    They have no choice but to do better. The first one is always the easiest because you've been wanking that shit for years. but the follow-up is often times make or break for many bands.
    mkybrat
    I completely agree; sounds like a bunch of kids that just learned how to play their instruments and created their first songs. I just listened to the song "Monster" after the reviewer said it was "ridiculously catchy"...I didn't find it catchy at all and that chorus is like something straight out of a pop song where they just repeat the same line 4 times. Unless the rest of the songs are much different, how could you give this album a rating of 8 for lyrics?
    Iommianity
    I don't listen to music based on the band's potential or relative experience. It doesn't matter how old these guys are or how much experience they have, this album is shit any way you slice it. Dumb, sub caveman riffs, tired structures and vocals, boring songs. 'Generic' doesn't get a pass from me, and that's putting it nicely. Whatever potential these guys genuinely have is going to be lost on people like me who care more about the end result than what the band might potentially be capable of. Distinctive vocals lmao
    Jezmic
    Heard that, done that. I wish there more truly original new groups out there. There's plenty of genres that haven't been discovered yet.
    Om_Bongo
    They're teenagers, they haven't exactly had much time to mature musically.
    LightxGrenade
    So why don't you go and write the music you want to hear then instead of hoping someone comes up with it?
    StrikeoftheBeas
    The riff on Monster is a total rip off of "Over the Wall" by Testament to me....at least that's what I keep hearing
    Humbug808
    Might as well be watching Fox News talk about Republicans. I know we're suppose to go easy on em' because they're kids, but that doesn't mean reviewers should be giving this album 8/10. 10 is Master Of Puppets, 10 is Black Sabbath's debut album, how could this album be anywhere near there? I smell a payola review... What revolutionary thing did this album do for Metal or music at all? Is it because its 3 African-American kids? Kids (White And Black) have been making crappy music since the invention of the electric guitar, why is this so special? If three White 12 year olds made a sub-par Rap album with rhyme schemes from 10 years ago (The equivalent to the riffs on this album), would they be getting 8/10 reviews on a Hip-Hop site? Just doesn't add up. BTW I'm hoping these kids comeback 5 or 10 years from now and write the most kickass Metal and change the scene, but this album is DEFINITELY no 8/10. (Mic Drop)
    tukk04
    It feels like the reviewer took it easy on them cause they're kids (or because money talks), this album would be panned if any up and coming adult band put it out, and would be any established band's career-killer.
    travislausch
    I actually honestly went into this review expecting to hate it, and I went into it ignoring the band's age and race (notice how I never once mention they're African-Americans?). I know you probably think I get paid to make any band sound god-like, but I decided to give this album a fair shake, ignoring the facets of the band that would get them a lot of hype because it would just be too easy to shit on them for being kids trying to make it in an adult world, or too easy to bring race into it (especially when you consider the shitty UG comments lately). I just so happened to enjoy this album a lot more than I thought I would.
    LightxGrenade
    Not a fan of this but they definitely got talent. I'll be interested to see what they come up with as they get older and their song writing potentially starts to branch out. This kinda came off as very "safe" musically.
    dingotron
    All the potential in the world. Too bad they went to a major label right off the bat. Now they'll have their style pre cut by a producer instead of letting them grow into a band that might sound a tad more diverse.
    travislausch
    Actually, they were able to get out of the deal with Sony by virtue of being too young to accept it. Their album is being distributed by an indie digital music distribution service called TuneCore
    HugoPan
    I just hope they don't become the next black tide.
    westley23j
    i wish black tide didnt turn out like black tide. too bad, because their debut was really good at the time. their 2nd album was pretty awful. probably just whats going to happen to these guys. sadly. id love for them to be successful, but you know how it is. they were young and didnt have deadlines to write muc of thi music as it was done while they were perfecting their craft. now they have label influence, pressure, then the singers voice is gonna change.
    Abacus11
    This band sounds like a slightly above average garage band of high school kids circa 1993 stepped into a time machine, arrived in 2016, signed a record deal and that label paid for high-quality production. Somewhat interesting for a couple of minutes but that's about it.
    intothevoid95
    Just so we're clear, this album got an 8 while the new Architects album got a 6.7 and the new letlive. didn't even get a review. I understand that this site as a bias against any forms of music that are vaguely modern sounding (ie metalcore and post-hardcore) but surely you can objective enough to admit that this is not very good. I get that they're kids but the novelty is gone and now it's time to see what they've got (which isn't much).