CD Review: AFTER THE BURIAL - In Dreams
By Kit Brown
Deathcore, though constantly at the wrong end of too many bad jokes in the metal community, has been making some positive changes in the past year or so. With the releases of more progressive-tinged albums like The Contortionist’s Exoplanet and Within the Ruins’ Invade, the genre isn’t necessarily a dirty word anymore. While I was certainly not a fan of After the Burial’s previous release, Rareform, I could certainly see some potential with the band. Everyone in the group displayed loads of technical skill, but the album suffered greatly due to strange production quality and severe stagnation in the Thordenal-nodding breakdowns. With their much anticipated sophomore release, In Dreams, After the Burial should be expected to effortlessly retain their established fan-base, while expanding to newer audiences outside of the Sumeriancore die-hards.
To be blunt, In Dreams is a much more focused, concise, and entertaining listen than Rareform was. After the Burial have really toned down the “check-me-out” aesthetic they may have been known for before, offering much less soloing. While this may be seen as a downer to some fans, all is not lost. Guitar solos and catchy leads are still very predominant here; they just seem less forced than before. But if you’re still jonesing for an outright wank-fest, look no further than the album’s opening track, “My Frailty”, in which guitarists Justin Lowe and Trent Hafdahl offer a barrage of air-tight sweeps that should impress shredders worldwide. Perhaps the strongest aspect of Lowe’s and Hafdahl’s playing, however, has to be their sense of layering and melody. The best example of this can be found in “Pendulum”, easily my favorite song this band has released. Every element of the band, both past and present, can be found here. The new addition of clean vocals in the chorus is simply too infectious to deny, especially when layered with harmonized guitar leads. In Dreams’ addition of clean vocals, though made very obvious in songs like “Pendulum” and “To Carry You Away”, should not be seen as a sell-out move by any means. They’re mainly used as an extra layer on top of vocalist Anthony Notarmaso’s menacing and surprisingly clear harsh vocal delivery.
While After the Burial have clearly matured as both musicians and songwriters in the past few years, they’re still not quite out of an unfortunately comfortable niche they’ve found for themselves. Simply put, too many of In Dreams’ breakdowns become stagnant and forgettable, even after multiple listens. Perhaps the worst example of this would be “Bread Crumbs and White Stones”, which sounds more like a b-side to Meshuggah’s Nothing. While that song could carry over very well to a live setting, it just doesn’t sound nearly as accomplished as some of the album’s other more redeeming tracks. “Your Troubles Will Cease and Fortune Will Smile Upon You” is certainly victim to this trend as well, starting off the song with your typical polyrhythmic eight-string affair, and never really seems to go anywhere truly rewarding or interesting. Sure, some breakdowns on In Dreams absolutely crush (see: “To Carry You Away” and “Encased in Ice”), but they’re few and far between.
While In Dreams isn't a masterpiece by any means, After the Burial have certainly improved from Rareform, delivering one of the better deathcore albums in recent memory. In Dreams’ modest thirty-five minute run time keeps things moving at an enjoyable pace, and certainly warrant the need to replay the album multiple times to fully digest the work as a whole. Look out especially for the incredible choruses in “Pendulum”, the monstrously grandiose solo in the middle of “To Carry You Away”, and the rock-solid groove riffs in “Encased in Ice”. One of the better Sumerian releases of 2010.