GET DOWN FOR THE REVOLUTION: AT ALL COST’S CIRCLE OF DEMONS OWNS
With Circle of Demons, At All Cost don’t just live up to the promise of their excellent debut, It’s Time to Decide – they make their mark as the first members of the American New Wave’s second generation to actually live up to the promise of their predecessors. Killer songwriting, superior musicianship and seemingly boundless creativity makes Circle of Demons one of those albums that will be in your constant rotation for weeks on end. Infectious as the ebola virus and rewarding to multiple listens, it truly elevates At All Cost far above the pack; they may not reinvent the wheel, exactly, but they do make the old tricks seems new again.
To all those who would call At All Cost “just another metalcore band,” I ask you: on which In This Moment song does that band not only utilize a string section for militaristic effect, but also allows the string section to take over the song for the final minute and a half, as At All Cost do on “We Won’t Give In?” Which blessthefall track features a Spanish-flavored acoustic guitar interlude like the one in “Ride Through The Storm?” Please, play for me the song by One Dead Three Wounded that features a slow, bluesy, elegiac guitar solo like the one in “Let it Rain Death (Blizzard of Snakes)” – which also, by the way has pretty much the best song title ever. Play for me the songs by Feast for the Crows or Arsonists Get All the Girls that have the kind of epic, soaring falsetto backing vocals that wouldn’t seem out of place in a Ennio Morricone score. Or the song by Daath or Sanctity with a robotic vocoder verse (“Lasting Forever”) or a chorus powered by Yngwie-style appregios beneath a gently drifting melody (“Eating Lighting Part III,” which is the second best name for a song ever). And Demon Hunter have a song that’s reminiscent of nothing less than White Album-era Beatles like AAC’s “Drugs,” don’t they?
They don’t – and that’s because At All Cost bring a level of inventiveness to the table that we usually look for outside their particular genre. Most bands would be happy just to write a song as 110% guaranteed to get stuck in your head as the down-right danceable “Get Down for the Revolution” or the Maiden-esque gallop of the appropriately titled “Ride Through the Storm” (which also features, at the 32 second mark, the most kick-ass slow down I’ve heard in forever). But At All Cost clearly put a level of thought, planning, and execution into their music that would seemingly never occur to most bands. Little moments – like the one at the 35 second mark of “Get Down for the Revolution,” where there’s a little bass flourish that the guitars echo a couple of seconds later – make it easy to listen to this album over and over and over again while still maintaing a unique experience each time.
Of course, even if none of this were true, the band still has all the pre-requisites you love and expect in a modern metal act – face-rippingly fast guitars and ball crushing, skull fucking breakdowns (“Step One”) adorning huge, anthemic, crowd-sing-along-ready choruses (“The Message,” and, uh, just about every other song).
Singer Andrew Collins returns, vocoder at the ready, and his trade-off of demonic growls and smooth croons continues to be masterful; and you’ve gotta admire the amount of work the guy clearly pours into his (often politically motivated) lyrics (on “Revolution,” he seems to have fun with the word play as he sings “The money will control innocence/ In a sense/ Incense”). Dummer Jon Oswald, mercifully, steers clear of the overuse of insane double-bass drumming, instead utilizing sparing, quick rolls to greater effect – check out the chorus of “Step One.” Guitarists Michael Carrigan Throeald and Trey Ramirez are ready for their guitar hero status; seriously, these guys are too young to be this good. Their technical prowess is… Christ, I don’t even know what to say about these dudes (on a superficial note, though, extra props to Mike for already having a beard that rivals the very best in metal). And bassist Bobby Andrews knows how to keep his parts interesting without needlessly calling attention to himself; that little flourish I mentioned before isn’t his only moment to shine, although you may have to listen carefully to catch them (like I said, the dude doesn’t call undue attention to himself… at least not through his playing).
So is Circle of Demons At All Cost’s masterpiece? Somehow, I don’t think so – I think their best work is still ahead of them. In ten years, they’re either going to be one of the biggest names in metal, or the completely under-appreciated geniuses of their generation. But this much is for sure: when it comes out on July 31, you need to go buy a copy of this album. At all fucking cost.
(four and a half out of five horns)
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