What was djent anyway? The progressive subgenre exploded in the early 2010s before many of the bands disbanded or rejected being labeled after a guitar-picking technique. Born of Osiris were at the forefront of djent; helping kickstart the movement with their debut The New Reign and producing one of the genre's best classics with 2013’s Tomorrow We Die Alive. They’ve remained committed to the sound on Angel or Alien, their sixth album overall. Purists will hate this with the passion of a thousand suns. It's for listeners who have moved into the 21st century and aren’t opposed to a little pop electronica. Born of Osiris have delivered for their fans again.
As usual, most of the album’s power comes from Lee McKinney’s palm-muted guitar attack. Former bassist Nick Rossi has graduated up to rhythm guitar on this album, leaving Born of Osiris without a bass player for the first time. It hardly matters, considering how down-tuned the guitars are. The polyrhythmic attack of two djent guitarists creates some mind-bending sections on the single “White Nile.” They even start wheedling off classic guitar solos at the end. Cameron Loesch’s drum kit must be half electronic trigger pads at this point, but what we can hear is his best performance in years. He manages to keep things making sense even when all the other instruments are flying off on their own.
Born of Osiris seem to want to have their metal cake and eat it too. They stop short of a full pop transformation but Angel or Alien has too many electronic hooks for the average hardcore enjoyer. Even so, the music is so unpredictable that it can change several times in the same song. Earthshaking bass drops bump up against shiny synth and empathetic vocals. Born of Osiris have always had much stronger songwriting than the average Soundcloud tech enthusiasts. It shows here, especially in the rhythm section. It's catchy, while still being technical.
Where things start to lose momentum is in between sections. This is where the guitars fade out to be replaced by the same sort of synth that has dominated Bring Me The Horizon's latest releases. It might work for some bands, but Born of Osiris' musicians have way too much talent to rely on pre-programmed synth. It's like Protest The Hero started sounding a bit more like Asking Alexandria. If that sounds appealing, this certainly is the record for you.
“Threat Of Your Presence” is the heaviest thing they offer, a wild ride through Born Of Osiris’ best tendencies and ending with the best breakdown on the album. The pop-punk lyrics of "Love Story" undercut some even greater riffs. “Crossface” bridges into nü-metal like Korn with its punchy opening riff. “Lost Souls” could be the soundtrack to a racing game app and “In For The Kill” is the closest Born of Osiris come to emulating their heroes Meshuggah. There's more than enough here to make up half a setlist of new material. That is an achievement on any album, let alone a sixth one.
Angel or Alien shows that Born of Osiris still follow their own path. They're unique, and they can still make a great song. Most djent bands have gone the pop direction or dissolved into soulless overproduced noodling. Born of Osiris have done neither. Listening to Angel or Alien, you can still hear the scrappy band that turned deathcore on its head in 2008. They've beaten the odds and established themselves as a major influence over the scene today. As the djent movement continues to grow, it's clear that Born of Osiris will be around for it. They deserve recognition for being one of the founders of modern metal sound. There's really no better praise than that.