‘Autotheism’ shows professional evolution for The Faceless
Published: Thursday, August 16, 2012
Updated: Thursday, August 16, 2012 12:08
Technical death metal titans The Faceless are set to release their third full-length album, "Autotheism," via metal label Sumerian Records Wednesday.
Undoubtedly, a great many metal fans have had this release date marked on their calendars since guitar virtuoso Michael Keene announced the album was nearing completition in early July.
The record features three new members, including neo-bass-shredding superstar Evan Brewer, a brand new vocalist and a new guitarist, Wes Hauch, to accompany Keene.
It has been a whopping four years since the band’s last full-length effort, which in today’s alternative music climate is equivalent to just under an eternity.
But, thirst no longer, metalheads, the new stuff is finally here.
From the word go, "Autotheism" feels like a more mature and ambitious effort from the group.
Even when compared to their critically acclaimed previous effort, "Planetary Duality," the new album has a sense of structure that has not been heard from the young band before.
Numerous instrumental sections tie up the loose ends between some songs, serving to add some dynamics to the experience.
That’s not to say the band has sacrificed the brutality that garnered them hordes of fans in the first place—they simply achieve it in different ways.
This serves as the biggest improvement on the record. It feels less like a bunch of technical death metal songs and more like a cohesive album.
In addition to being more musically glued together, the lyrical content of "Autotheism" is actually presented as a concept record focusing on themes of intellectual evolution and self-empowerment brought on by moving away from religion as a societal guide.
One of the first things that stands out is the band’s newfound focus on clean vocals.
Honestly, if I did not know any better, I would have thought I was listening to a much heavier Tool record at certain points, which is both welcome and entirely unexpected from The Faceless.
If clean vocals aren’t your thing, don’t fret (of course, if you are a clean vocals fanatic, you probably should not be reading this anyway).
Keene’s voice is not a whiny, shrill wail that so many "popular" bands employ, but rather the vocals of a powerful and passionate adult who doesn’t sing through his nose.
Rookie vocalist Geoffrey Ficco does an admirable job with the heavies as well.
Though at times lacking the subtle emotive qualities to send them to the forefront of the mix, his growls are every bit as incensed and rhythmic as his predecessor, Derek Rydquist.
But his star isn’t the one that shines brightest.
That distinction, once again, belongs to Keene.
Equal parts Steve Vai, David Gilmour and Fredrik Thordendal of Meshuggah, Keene really has a three-headed repertoire at his disposal.
On "Autotheism," the guitar mastermind proves once again why he is one of the most respected and talked-about musicians in the world of metal.
This album shows Keene knows when to lay down some dialed-back space rock leads, then switch seamlessly to high-speed sweeping and change it up to some straight-up, no-nonsense, crushing death metal shredding all in just the right quantities.
Hauch’s guitar work is also up to par, often crafting a surprising sense of melody out of all sorts of dissonant chords.
In addition to Keene’s supreme work, a talent like bassist Brewer also allows the band to create some truly unique soundscapes, since he plays on four strings faster and more creatively than many play on six.
On the whole, the record doesn’t strike me as an instant classic, but it is a great listen nonetheless.
Quality songs like "Autotheist Movement I: Create," "Accelerated Evolution" and "Ten Billion Years" ensure some measure of repeat listening, but only time will tell if this will end up one of the year’s best.
If "Planetary Duality" was The Faceless hitting its stride as musicians and songwriters, "Autotheism" is the sound of the band becoming professionals.