It's really inspiring to see After the Burial continuously grow from being one of Sumerian Records' young opening acts to one of their strongest in the roster. While their debut LP Rareform is debatably the most impactful within the band's discography, they have consistently continued to expand on their sound with each release. After the thoroughly impressive Dig Deep, it wasn't a guarantee they'd be able to match the catchy, innovative djent-core they pulled off on heavy-hitters like "Lost in the Static," "Collapse," and "Heavy Lies the Ground."
Fast forward to hearing the first single off the latest LP Evergreen and the hype was very much so present. "Behold the Crown" will be, without a doubt, a live staple. It is easily the strongest song and a stand-out track on this record. The second most impressive song would be "In Flux," which like "Behold the Crown" is absolutely gripping nearly from front-to-back with engaging and entrancing groovy riffs. I say "nearly" because the minute-long ambient outro was just unnecessary or at the very least could use some beefing up with more interesting layers. It is also worth mentioning "Exit, Exist" since it was their second released single and they have been playing it live recently.
While "Exit, Exist" certainly holds merit (see the colossal chorus where Anthony Notarmaso bellows "Destroyer of worlds"), it's not entirely as touching as the previously mentioned tracks. This song will likely grow on me with time and inevitably be a banger in the live setting, but for now, it shall humbly accept the bronze medal. All in all, these songs are prime examples of After the Burial's immaculate metalcore/deathcore songwriting skills and is more-or-less comparable to the hits from Dig Deep.
Dig Deep truly excelled because a large majority of the material was an instant pleasure. While the three previously mentioned Evergreen tracks may also fall in that category, the remaining pieces on this album are quite the opposite—they take some time to consume, digest, and enjoy. Furthermore, there are moments that unveil a more experimental side of the band. I spoke already of the ambiance on "In Flux," yet I'd also like to point at the excessive pitch harmonics in "Behold the Crown," the melodic guitar solo in "Respire," or the blast beat attack at the end of "A Pulse Exchanged" as instances of After the Burial somewhat stepping outside of their comfort zone and exploring some new territory little by little.
Although there is evidence of musical exploration and keen songwriting, some of these songs come off as a bit aimless, especially in the latter half of the LP. There are cases where that works in After the Burial's favor—see the tense track "Quicksand"—yet, there are a few tracks that would've benefited from a more clear sense of direction. "To Challenge Existence" has a really fun riff idea shown at the one minute mark and it was exciting to hear it revisited later in the song, but unfortunately not much else is that memorable about the composition. "A Pulse Exchanged" suffers from a similar issue being that it didn't completely grab my attention the whole time despite having impressive work in the rhythm section. In addition to that, "11/26" reveals a more old school metalcore sound that just sounds too dated and ultimately leaves much to be desired, even if the guitar solo near the end is redeemable.
Overall, Evergreen is proof that After the Burial are masters of their craft, especially their keen use of build-up and resolution. We also see the band experimenting further with ambiance and style, allowing for a greater sense of dynamics and variety throughout the LP. Unfortunately, sometimes with this experimentation came material that was in one ear and out the other, yet nonetheless commendable. A lot of people will likely compare this release to the last. To that, Dig Deep is a stronger and more wholesome album while Evergreen presents newly explored territory that is equally as exciting. Justin Lowe would be extremely proud.