Within The Ruins deliver the goods on their fifth album.
Since hitting the studio last year, Within The Ruins have made a concerted effort to emphasise how their new album would be “different sounding” and with a “more organic style of writing and production”. Coming from a band that already possessed a fairly distinctive and ultra modern take on metalcore/deathcore, these claims were quite intriguing especially as they’d recently incorporated new bassist Paolo Galang into their lineup. However, on Halfway Human the band have straddled their ambition to explore different sounds and approaches with a template that they’ve established and mastered over their previous four albums.
Guitarist Joe Cocchi has maintained his very technical take on metalcore and deathcore, which has become the backbone to the band’s back catalogue, as there are plenty of flourishes and quirky guitar leads that embellish the tracks (just listen to the frantic fretwork on “Ivory Tower”). However, this technical character has been made a little more organic with a less processed guitar tone, a big step up for the band as many critics were put off by a very synthetic guitar sound that the band briefly pioneered. By doing so they’ve avoided the pitfall of having a sound that feels flat and mechanical- particularly now that they’ve beefed up the rhythm section. The groaning low-end of the bass, coupled with a punchy drum sound, ensures that the grooves that the band have introduced into their songwriting has a certain bounciness- particularly on the thrashy “Death Of The Rockstar” or the catchy stomp of “Incomplete Harmony”. However, the best example of when the drums, bass and guitars lock together in a powerful rhythm is arguably on the choppy, syncopated stutter of “Absolution”- the way that the beat judders and throbs is certain to get fans jumping in the pit.
This newfound mastery of groovy, tech-laden deathcore has been bolstered with the introduction of melodies, particularly from bassist Paolo Galang. On Within The Ruin’s previous album Phenomena, the band dipped their collective toes into conventional choruses on a track like “Gods Amongst Men”, but with Paolo’s stronger sense of melody the hard-hitting vocal lines are far more convincing this time around. Pairing his deft melodies with vocalist Tim Goergen’s mid-range growls adds a hint of grit and keeps the choruses from becoming too saccharine- wrap your ears around “Shape Shifter”, “Objective Reality” and “Beautiful Agony” to fully understand the combination of these two styles. However, when Paolo is at the forefront, particularly on the euphoric, almost transcendent, majesty of “Treadstone”, he really shines through with his distinct approach towards singing. This is just what Within The Ruins have needed to elevate them above their peers, especially in the stale metalcore scene.
If there is a fly in the ointment, it’s that the six-minute instrumental track “Ataxia IV” feels excessive and unnecessary. It lacks any memorable leads that made the first “Ataxia” so fresh and enjoyable, and unfortunately drags the album out to longer than it needs to be. Despite this criticism, I still feel that Halfway Human is undoubtedly the best release Within The Ruins have put their name to- a less timid attitude to their unique formula has paid dividends, and I would definitely look forward to where they go next from here.
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