(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

CD review - Amoral, Beneath (2012)

Mixed bag of melodic and power metal with hard rock flourishes

Beneath opens with orchestral synths asserting a stately sensibility on the title cut. Amoral gives us a full minute to let that sink in before unleashing the guitars to bark out a classic metal riff. The band has a good sense of dynamics, alternating between an appropriate shred and moodier dropouts. While the sections themselves take enough time to make their point, the transitions between them sections come swiftly.

This pace keeps Beneath moving along quickly despite its almost nine minute run time. At the same time, it feels like a pastiche as Amoral bounces from motif to motif. They even throw in some death metal growl to allude to their past.

The patchwork feel persists to the album as a whole. While Beneath maintains continuity, the stylistic variation between the tracks sounds like a band in search of direction. Melodic and power metal blend with modern rock. Then they occasionally toss in a lightweight shadow of death metal. There are plenty of good songs or even pieces of songs, but Amoral needs more lyrical strength to hold the pieces together.

For example, Things Left Unsaid starts with a strong opening riff. A second guitar joins in loosely to lay out a counter melody. When the rhythmic crunch hits, it creates a heavy balance to the lighter melody lines. The vocals are theatrically large, but they lack lyrical depth:
Help me see all that I've got
Make me work on what I'm not
What good is a script if there's no chance of getting it shot?
Fortunately, tracks like Same Difference offer some distraction. Thrash metal riffs drive it forward and the glam metal vocals fit together well with the choppy rhythm and grinding guitars. It's very catchy. The lead section features some nice harmonized guitar lines that slide into a more modern rock feel.

Amoral started reinventing itself with Show Your Colors. Beneath continues the process. It may be a mixed bag, but the playing is solid enough across the genre shifts to give them a fair trial.

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