Sound — 5
Okay, so this whole djent thing has been in good swing for a year or two now, becoming every aspiring guitar virtuoso's constant wet dream and making no sense along the way. Recently, the entire genre has been restrained to an almost symbiotic relationship with metalcore, a somewhat unexpected and intangible connection that has essentially made every new djent band (with a formation after 2008) sound completely dry compared to the leading figureheads: Periphery, TesseracT and Meshuggah (whether Meshuggah like it or not). What's lacking is character for each band. Its like, "yeah, we can play in 19/16 and make it sound like cheesy pop" but also "Why is everyone saying we sound like [random djent band]?!?". So we have Vildhjarta, the mysterious Swedes who gave us a spiffing string of demos and essentially did nothing for a year before giving us this, "Masstaden", a cooonceeeept album about an isolated village (yeah, we're getting all story telly up in this b-tch). The general sound of the album is one of incredible looseness, by that I mean... something: while their original idea of "ambidjent" is solid enough, at times the ideas can sound so bland, uninspired and then equally just as interesting. A bare essential rundown of the sound would be "Meshuggah with death metal vocals and the occasional obligatory melodic bit". But it's hard to call djent "boring" as such, every band has a new way to wrangle riffs into awkward rhythms, but "Masstaden" is played at the exact same breakdown tempo for the entire bloody album, maybe the odd interjection of an increase in BPM for about a minute, but OH NO WAIT, WE'RE GOING TOO FAST, and its back down into the realms of sloooooooooooooooooooooooooooow. It's hard to get any sense of drive or feeling from a metal album when it's stuck in the same repetitive-sounding groove for the entire 50 minutes of the album. And the only reason the grooves feel repetitive is for one big huge reason: Production. Personally I'd like to know what the entire band was thinking when they were listening to the final product: We poured our advance into THAT? Is what I would say, although they'd probably say it in Swedish. The (yet again, low as f--kly tuned) guitars are thin, flat, monotone and very dry, this sound makes them very very easy to ignore (this is an awful turn around since "Omnislash", which had a distinctive, sharp and "jagged" razor wire guitar tone), so you focus on the other aspects of the sound, but the drums suffer a similar problem, having a very "safe" sound with no real feeling behind them and an awfully mixed kick drum makes you forget there's any other rhythmic context at all aside from the snare, which is in a predictably predictable 4/4 thwack AND IT IS ALWAYS 4/4 hence taking away the feeling that this is anything other than a bouncy groove-a-thon for hardcore kids. Oh, and the bass guitar, yet again, as with every new djent album, blindly follows the kick drum/guitar riff as if to say "Here's your inspiration, now listen as I rhythmically twiddle-bore you to death".
Lyrics — 6
We got yet another band with two vocalists doing the essential same thing: Vocally mutilating their channel strips as much as possible. One screams, the other death growls, sometimes they do it at the same time, sometimes they don't, sometimes they both growl, sometimes they take a break and let you hear some random interjection of djent monotony. But they never ever actually do anything else. Fine, that's what's been keeping practically all forms of music alive for the last century or so, but when you hear the "Omnislash" demo, you really really REALLY wish they'd added some clean singing on "Masstaden". Okay, it's not all bad, they do have very tight rhythmical competence, on a level with "Fellsilent", but not quite as explosive or attention grabbing is SikTh. As well as adding an angle of musicality to djent, the ambient backdrops of dubbed guitar highlight unseen melodies that remains absent from the rhythm guitars and vocals. TesseracT and Uneven Structure do this particularly well. When you don't have any clean vocals, all you have is chromatics droning endlessly on and on in the background, only very rarely breaking this cycle and actually going pseudo-melodic. Although they get one more point for the song "Traces", which is the only song that does have clean singing, very Eric Kalsbeek (probably is Eric Kalsbeek). Lyrically, this is a concept album, its about a town, probably called "Masstaden" (which means "Exhibition centre" apparently), and a lot of hoogie is going down in this town. That's all I can make out. Call me dumb, and I always do, but maybe my media crushed attention span is making me forget why a band with two vocalists has a rap albums worth of lyrics but manages to not only forget to convey their point across but also make me type.
Overall Impression — 4
...Yeah, I'm not happy with it. If I was a perpetually cynical man (in reality being a moderately cynical man), I'd be asking if they were taking the piss, or if they were pressured by Century Media to rush this shit out as fast as possible. Either way, the end product is not a good one, unless you're so deep in death metal flavoured djent that you honestly don't care if there's any artistic integrity anymore. But at least it's not phat b33tz a la Emmure. Songs to look out for: "Traces", "Deceit", "The Lone Deranger".