A solid band held back by genre constraints.
“Christian metalcore” is an oddly self-destructive phrase in music. Especially considering how the few bands that are now classic and staples of the genre managed to transcend that label (Underoath being the most obvious example that comes to mind). It has always been my humble opinion that if you are indeed a Christian in a band then your music should be doing all the talking -just the same as any other band - and if you desperately need to be evangelising your music, then you should be playing in a worship band instead. After all, why limit one's own demographic of a record before anyone’s even heard the damn thing? So, it’s not particularly surprising, then, that the biggest detractors of this genre label are the very people that it's been slapped on - whether by fans and media or by the bands themselves.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to think coming into the newest album from For All Eternity - titled 'The Will To Build', a record about fears, darkness and healing - seeing as they were introduced to me first as a “Christian metalcore band”. After swiftly dismissing this tag, as I normally do with any tag given before I've even heard the music itself, I was pleasantly surprised. See, this Sydney band has a real willingness to dive into those equally loved and dreaded metalcore clichés, take what made metalcore truly awesome back in the early and mid-2000's, and then translate those aspects solidly into the current heavy music climate. And no, that doesn’t just mean changing from drop C to B flat or by simply reaching for the bloody 7-string (goddammit, do not even get me started).
Overall, the keyword I would use to describe 'The Will To Rebuild' is “cinematic”. Cinematic in the song's composition, to be more precise. For there are passages and certain musical elements across this record that could certainly be repurposed for any major Hollywood movie. But more importantly, everything here has the gravity and scope of such an epic score; this record is to the rest of the metal bargain bin what The Dark Knight Rises shot through pixel-perfect IMAX cameras is to George Clooney’s Bat-nipples. This sometimes serves to shoot the record in the foot, though – the ninth track 'Vivid' tries way too hard and comes across as more overdrawn and meandering than awesome or killer – but for the most part, this gives the record a sonic palate that is genuinely huge. Meaning that when the breakdowns rain down around you from high above, it's out of an atmosphere already dripping with anticipation and an actual need for such moments. (See: the end of 'Derailed' or the breakdown in 'The Vacated').
Over in the vocal department, frontman Shane Carroll delivers one of the most dynamic, animalistic and deranged performances of the year for the metalcore. Seriously, this dude’s a goddamn animal behind the mic. Although, one area I wasn’t overly keen on was the singing performance from drummer Michael Buckley (though, to be fair, drumming and singing at the same time is a tall order so credit where credit's due). However, the light and shade contrast between heavy and clean is one of those aforementioned metalcore clichés I was referring to and is one that I simply cannot handle any more; something that came dangerously close to being a real deal-breaker for me on 'The Will To Rebuild'. I’m not one to say that singing shouldn’t be in heavy music - quite the opposite is true - but when there is almost no bridge between the two and they so blatantly clash it does a spectacular job at deflating one's interest and engagement severely. There are certainly parts of the record where Buckley’s contributions fit with far more cohesion, but it still serves to be something of an Achilles heel for this LP. Thankfully, however, Carroll’s screaming performance is more than enough to make up for that particular large gripe I have with this 11-track record.
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Now, like I said before, the attempt to make the album sound as epic and as massive as possible does mean that there are moments more drawn out and “slow-motion-worthy” than they arguably should be, or more so than was ever warranted. Take, for example, the opening track 'Shadow'. My initial thoughts when this opener began the album was “Oh, here we go again”. But my initial cynicism was met with rolled eyes on the part of the band when the hair-raising “will I ever know?” section dropped and then transitioned into some serious bad-assery from Carroll. This is where the album is its most hit-and-miss for me; for every Christopher Nolan IMAX moment, there is a Joel Schumacher moment if you catch my meaning. But good Lord, do the moments that work here kick you right in the fucking dick!
Oh, and it was also very nice to breathe a sigh of relief when I realised that the “Christian metalcore” tag was just as redundant as every other time it's been used: the themes and ideas are present if you wish to look for them, but they aren’t beaten over your head any more than the breakdowns are.
When For All Eternity's latest album works, it really works. However, there is no shortage of detractors aligned with their genres weary clichés to keep this band from reaching the same heights as metalcore's most transcendent acts: Misery Signals, August Burns Red, Silent Planet, Architects and so forth. That being said, there is plenty to enjoy here though, and For All Eternity are definitely a band to keep an eye on in the future as they grow and further hone their already solid, heavy-hitting metalcore craft.
'The Will To Build' is out now.