2018? More like 2008.
While I do enjoy and respect metal bands like All That Remains, Unearth, Soilwork, Trivium, Killswitch Engage and Parkway Drive, the extensive nature of their respective wide-spread influence has resulted in countless imitators over the years. Metalcore and melodic metal bands who, as both young punters and budding fans, heard (and seemingly loved) records like ‘As Daylight Dies’, 'The Oncoming Storm', ‘Killing With A Smile’, ‘Shogun’ and ‘The Fall Of Ideals’. And that’s all that some of these bands seemed to have listened to ever since first being exposed to said artists and releases. You can clearly see this influence with certain other Aussie locals such as The Daily Chase, Vault Of Valor, Feed Her To The Sharks, and even on that new Resist The Thought track to some degree. But I feel it’s especially and egregiously evident with the new record from Newcastle's Lycanthrope - 'Chapters'.
Of course, Lycanthrope sound and play the way they do because of the records they listened to, loved and clearly reference. Whereas I write the way I do because of my love for critics like Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, Anthony Fantano and Jim Sterling. Truly, we are all just products of our influences. However, some of us are clearly influenced by our heroes more so than others, sometimes to the detrimental point where one cannot offer their own original ideas. Which is the case here with ‘Chapters’ I feel; more so the band's Spotify playlist than their own unique sound. It's not terrible or awful, it's just mediocre.
For other than a cleaner, louder mix and tighter recordings, not much has really changed for these guys since 'Wasteland' and 'Dogs Days'. Because straight up, this nearly 40-minute long record is just painfully generic. From the first few seconds of circa mid-2000's metalcore opener 'Wings', you'll realise exactly what kind of record you're in for with the rest of 'Chapters'. And I can guarantee that not only have you heard this sound many times before, I can also assure that you've more than likely heard it done infinitely better too. An example? Shit, just look at the aforementioned bands these guys pull their music from!
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Songs like 'Skin & Bones' and 'Bitter Resistance' abuse this genre's low-tuned chugs and the typical melo-death riff approach, firing them off on every single song. Then there's the heavily recycled Soilwork/Killswitch melodic guitar leads that litter each track with little to no meaning or impact. Whilst the cool little bass runs in 'Wings' really stick out, they quickly get drowned out by the rest of the guitar arrangements. And you know, for a band with three guitarists, the band never seem to make that much use of the trio at their disposable. One also can't forget the predictably placed, dime-a-dozen booming breakdowns that could be found on a million other core records - 'Paths Divided' is easily the worst offender - nor the stock-standard interweaving of impressive but still butt-rock-sounding clean vocals in the choruses and heavier screams in the verses. The band do dip down into a heavier sound with a genuinely massive breakdown during the title track, and I can't help but feel that going even lower in tuning overall would've been the better option for Lycanthrope. Because as this record stands, it's just nowhere near impactful enough.
The album's closing track, 'X VII' is the brightest, arguably the most emotive and most melodic of Lycanthrope's melodic metal sound, and it's not half bad either. It also features some added clean vocals from one of their guitarists, Aidan Lee, and goddamn, they really should've used his cleans more on this record. Not just because he's a decent (if seemingly pitched up) singer, but because his vocals would compliment frontman's Daniel Greig for a nicer, stronger vocal dynamic overall. Speaking more of the vocals, a lot of these "uplifting", hard rock leaning choruses stray more towards the likes of later (read: worst) All That Remains material and - *spoken with a heavy whisper* - Five Finger Death Punch. Which brings me to another point about this band: Lycanthrope is just less of a bargain bin band than FFDP already are, and Greig even sounds eerily like old mate Ivan Moody too when he sings cleanly. But in this band's defence, at least they've got something a little bit more musical going on for them than every tribal tattoo-donning dickhead's favourite metal band does.
Bringing all of this mediocre trite together is the fact that these ten songs are pretty much interchangeable with one another in terms of structure and pacing. So much so that you've what, folks? That's right - heard all of this shit before. Seriously, all that really changes throughout this record is that one song has some backing melodic synth lines (the title track), one song will start off with some virtual strings instead of the lead riff ('Like A Ghost'), and one song ('Blindfold', a fine if inoffensive track) will use a sample from Jake Brigances' closing statement from the movie adaptation of John Grisham's violent, uncomfortable but stellar A Time to Kill novel. Like, oh my god, this one song started off with a low-pass EQ filter on the drum kit and some reverse reverb instead of just the main riff kicking things off? Stop the fuckin' presses, time for me to bust out the gold stars!
Look, there's just nothing across these ten songs that prove this NSW crew are a unique or even individual band. There's very little in the way of variation to this record, which is to be expected from the genre, but Jesus H. Christ, some variety would've gone a long fuckin' way. Though, to be fair, 'Follow My Name' is this album's sole style change-up in the shape of a soft acoustic ballad. And it's a lovely, dynamic and intimate track that sees the band mightily coming in at once before the song's outro appears for the most effective piece of songwriting this record offers beyond just "Hey, do you guys like Adam D?"
Much like this very website, this record belongs back in 2008 because 'Chapters' is just so very last decade. Which will either be the instant deal-breaker for those who have moved well and truly on from that phase in their lives and that particular era of the heavy music scene. Or it’ll be the main drawcard for those of you reading this who are missing the good ol’ days through your rose-tinted glasses that weigh so heavy they're leaving red marks on your face. As for me and ‘Chapters’, I land somewhere in the middle. As I too grew up on the much-loved records that these local guys seem to be scarily referencing and madly pulling their core musical ideas from, and I can see and hear what Lycanthrope are doing with their sound. But now in 2018, it sounds and feels just so horribly dated. There's a very good reason that this kind of metal evolved (and I mean that word literally; adapting to one's surrounding environment in order to survive) over the past decade or so: it needed to prosper. There's a reason certain bands backed off on the screaming, expanded into other genres and lighter sounds, or in some cases, upped the ante and grew even heavier: they needed to. C'mon, 'Horizons' came out over ten years ago. Let's all keep progressing forward, shall we? Yes, let's.
2. Skin & Bones
5. Like A Ghost
6. Follow My Name
7. Paths Divided
8. Bitter Resistance
10. X VII
'Chapters' is out February 16th.