Band: The Faceless
Label: Sumerian Records
Genre: Technical/Progressive Death Metal
“It’s not you, it’s me.” That’s how I picture a conversation with The Faceless and their fans going in regards to their new album, Autotheism. Saying that the latest effort from The Faceless expands on their previous formula (if you could say they had one) would be an enormous understatement. Beginning with Akeldama in 2006 and then Planetary Duality in 2008, it’s been pretty clear from the beginning that The Faceless won’t be content resting on their laurels – something that is the most apparent on Autotheism so far.
Not quite four years after the generally well-regarded technical death monolith Planetary Duality, The Faceless have once again proven that they’re near the head of the class in technicality and musical proficiency. When listeners thought that they might not be able to find a way to package any more blunt displays of musical muscle into thoughtfully written songs they lay out forty minutes of coldly calculated music that explores an even wider range of things than we’ve known from The Faceless. For any avid, experienced listener of the more avant-garde death and black metal bands, most of the content found on Autotheism won’t be particularly ground-breaking, but the execution of this material is of the highest order and the true thing of note here.
Included among the new musical inclusions on Autotheism are things like saxophones (perhaps taking a page from Ihsahn’s wonderful book of tricks), clean guitar passages and full verses and choruses of clean singing. Yes, clean singing. More than just one off lines (such as “There is no truth, only perspective“), newcomer vocalist Geoffrey Ficco and guitarist Michael Keene on backing vocals perform a substantial number of passages with clean vocals, interspersed between the furiously technical sections that The Faceless became known and loved for initially. If you’re wary of clean vocals mixing with death metal, fear not: Autotheism executes this juxtaposition flawlessly, always placing the vocals in a section that fits them well.
For those curious about how the record sounds, it’s incredibly organic and real. In regards to the vocals, they’re texturally similar to Daniël de Jongh of Textures at some moments, at others a bit closer to Devin Townsend’s voice, sometimes like something else entirely. Musically speaking, many of the tones, textures, melody lines, etc. of the rest of the band are a lot more warm and personable than The Faceless have used in their careers so far, which is quite fitting for the clean vocal sections. A very distant, but refreshing, departure for the band.
Labeling Autotheism as a progressive album would seem a bit self-serving since it’s not really breaking any new ground, but the uniqueness of the style and mixture of elements may warrant it. A huge departure from both Akeldama and Planetary Duality, it still somehow manages to be very distinctly a Faceless album. Sure to garner the band a litany of new followers, it should also please a large majority of the band’s current fanbase (even if they’re a bit awe-struck initially). A truly brilliant effort from front to back, perhaps one of the most complete and well thought out works released in 2012.
Review written by: Jordan Munson