The 2014 Arsies: January 9, 2014

January 9, 2014

Another day, another two albums of aggression.
The action starts with Sevendust's ninth studio album, Black Out The Sun. With this album, Sevendust has only improved upon their form: it's darker and more brooding than their last album, Cold Day Memory, but more polished and programmed than ever. With almost every track on this album, the band offers an experience that is both abrasively antisocial and accessibly melodic, both raw and refined. Now, as always, this polish is Sevendust's Achilles' heel; it's natural to want to mistrust a metal band whose records share some characteristics with those of Evanescence or Linkin Park. But take a listen to the title track or Decay; in these examples, you can hear both the overall sheen, as well as the quality components -- tasty riffs! leads! drum fills! -- that set them apart from metal tourists. This is not a simple recording of a band playing through a setlist... this is a crafted document of post-Impressionist metal masquerading as a series of tunes.
If I'm going to slap a Post-Impressionist label on Sevendust, then Exhumed can only be called Neoclassical. The self-styled guardians of early-90s goregrind (and if I'm being honest, we're talking specifically of a 1992 that Carcass never quite lived up to), Exhumed automatically bests Sevendust in the categories of aggression and grossness... and that's just within the album's first 20 seconds. (Here's my impression of that chunk of time, by the way: *riff* "BLEH" *blast beat*) The rest of Necrocracy is a glorious tour of all the hallmarks of a bygone era of grindcore (before the kids got all po-mo and uppity with it): rumbly atonal bass tone, two-toned gutteral vocals, oddly pleasurable (but wholly out-of-place) guitar leads, and a deep-seated commitment to polysyllabic adjectives. Necrocracy is a nostalgic celebration. But it's got two fatal problems. The first is that its songs only really stick in your memory when they're at their weirdest and most awkward. The second problem is that it was released the same year that the source of its nostalgia, Carcass, finally came out of retirement (and in doing so, dissipated the potent need for such nostalgia). Combined, both problems drag down the otherwise excellent Necrocracy, while Black Out The Sun continues to be an uplifting listening experience, even and especially at its darkest moments.
Well done, Sevendust. In three weeks, you take on Soilwork, in what will undoubtedly be a smoothly brutal (or brutally smooth) day of fighting. As for tomorrow... oh dear. The Dillinger Escape Plan vs Anciients. This is not going to be an easy win for anyone.

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