I have a lot of respect for the cheeseburger. It's one of the more unique culinary formats, posessed of both endless durability and elegant simplicity. You can add or subtract anything to the basic formula (bun + meat patty + cheese), or even play with the ingredients themselves, and odds are you'll end up with something that's at least edible, and possibly delicious. Time and time again, this theory has been proven, from basic additions (cheeseburger + pineapple = hawaiian burger, etc) to more esoteric distortions (italian roll + chipped beef = philly cheesesteak). The keys to a successful cheeseburger (and all of its descendents), however, are twofold: striking the correct balance of ingredients, and the restraint to not fuck too much with the original formula. Enter Beyond The Embrace, with their own unique take on the metalcore burger. BTE are a relatively young band, and like many relative newcomers, they have a few interesting ideas on how to make their recipe stand out from the pack of flaccid, boring fast-food bands that have been glutting the scene recently. I commend their innovative spirit and their willingness to take risks with their sound, but there are a few glaring errors in judgement that hold Insect Song back from being truly solid. Putting on this album for the first time was a bit of a surprise. Aside from the fact that they're signed to Metal Blade, I knew nothing about the band, so it was a bit shocking to hear what sounded like the opening of a solid thrash metal album. Within seconds, however, the first problem revealed itself. I appreciate that the vocalist is trying to do something different, especially when everyone else is falling over themselves to sound the same, but to my ears the vocals are extremely irritating. Imagine a kid who invested far too much of his time listening to and emulating James Hetfield's vocals on Reload, or Phil Anselmo's on Reinventing The Steel, and you'll have an idea of exactly how irritating it can be. This alone wouldn't be enough to sink the album, but soon afterward another critical flaw surfaced. As time went on, and track one became indistinguishable in my memory from tracks two or five, I realized that my mind was drifting away from the music and occupying itself with other things. After some reflection, it became apparent that the reasons my mind was wandering were simple enough: the guitar tone never really changes, and the songs aren't engaging at all. The former fault I can blame on the competent but mediocre production of Ken Susi (Unearth), whose most notable sonic contribution is that everything sounds as clean as fresh paint, and just about as boring as watching it dry. The latter, however, is purely the fault of the album itself. Bottom Line: At its core, Insect Song is a mildly creative melange of old-school metal and metalcore breakdowns. While I consider this to be a great idea, it has to be backed up by excellent songwriting to maintain the listener's interest. Sadly, the album never revealed anything special, even on several subsequent listens. I firmly believe that Beyond The Embrace possess the ingenuity and talent to write a solid album, provided they spend more time writing songs and less time attempting to sound different. And next time, easy on the cheese, guys.
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