Prior to hearing it, if you had told me that my mind would be blown by this record I would have had a lack of faith in your assessment. Having listened to the band's previous "A Memoir of Free Will" and being unimpressed with a rather generic djent/deathcore style, seeing a new release from them didn't exactly fill me with hope. First single "Begonia" didn't exactly stave off that impression either.
Dove in anyway, and my opinion has dramatically shifted. Much of the rest of the album veers away from breakdowns and shreddy harmonies and instead opts for vibe. Think more along the lines of "Nomadic"-era FALLUJAH, THE ZENITH PASSAGE, "Where Owls Know My Name"-era " RIVERS OF NIHIL," and slight bits and pieces from SOREPTION at their most trudging. From the moment album opener "Amaranthus (Love Lies Bleeding)" kicks in, you get a much better impression of what you're in for. A rolling, slow banger of a riff kicks in with a ton of atmosphere carrying it into the next riffs. When you can shift dynamically from that kind of headbanging intensity to something with a lot of synth-ish textures and less intense guitar noodling over a blast and actually pull all of that off and not make it seem disjointed, it's very special!
Odd time-signatures creep in from time to time to create just the right kind of tension so that when a straight-forward - or at least as straight-forward as what this quintet does - carpet-roll 4/4 drum pattern kicks in, it's a relief. It's tough to pick favorite tracks, but album closer "Every Virtue Is Lost" is easily the most ridiculously heavy track on the record and will undoubtedly be a fitting set-closer for the band at live shows, but that song "Gladiolus (Orphan's Oath)" will be the song to beat for me for the Track Of The Year title! Oh man, so much vibe! That opening riff that just churns in like a ship crashing through the stormy seas and the arpeggios over set a tone that hits you in the chest along with Brian Krahe's percussive bass line. The whole of the song just builds and builds and you don't know where it'll end up until all of a sudden at about the 4-minute mark, it's over. I've listened to that one song alone maybe 20 times now and I can't get enough of it.
In a band with all around uber-tight musicianship all-around, for vocalist Mac Smith to still be a focal point and a force to be reckoned with is a mind-blowing feat. He has a pretty far-stretching arsenal at his disposal with gutteral growls, a soft-spoken grown for several of the more vibe-ey passages, a great throat-ey mid-range growl, and even a Chris Barnes-ish chipmunk scream. His delivery is varied enough that he could push himself to be the next generation's Travis Ryan, seriously! Another focal point of musicianship worth mentioning is new drummer Nathan Andrew, who undoubtedly is helping to take this band to the next level of precision and his ability to play these uber-complex patterns and hold the listener's attention is to be marveled for sure.
As much praise as can be heaped upon this record, it isn't without some faults. First single "Begonia" needs to begone; it just comes off like a holdout from the band's previous stylings and sticks out like a sore thumb on an otherwise great record. The two little interlude/intro pieces on this record, "Loss" and "Mors Voluntaria" clock in at a couple minutes apiece, but they do serve to keep the flow going with just how much atmosphere is present on this record. That’s brings up the greatest flaw of this record though, that being that if you don't include that one meh song and the intros, this essentially is 24 minutes of vibe-ey, pummeling, not self-gratifying technical death metal. Those 24 minutes are top-shelf material, and I would have LOVED a couple more songs of that caliber, even keeping in the interlude tracks to keep this a cohesive and near-perfect record.