Daaaaammmmmnnnnnnn. This album may be the best deathcore album ever. Please stick around even if you aren’t a “-core” fan and check out the review. This album just takes it so far beyond the “-core” normal that you are forced to give it some attention. It’s fucking fantastic.
Now, I’ve been a fan of FFAA since they released their first free-to-download demo years ago. Not trying to sound cool, just giving you some background. I loved that little piece of insanity and was hyper excited for the first full length. When it came out, I was disappointed. It lacked the intensity and frankly, sounded not-so-hot. I knew what they were trying for: they wanted to put some thought into their songs to make them better than the regular old deathcore dreck. However, in the process of refinement, they lost raw emotion. Their subsequent album improved on every single aspect – the songs were arranged better, it sounded better, and was more emotionally present. But it still wasn’t quite there.
Enter Absolute Hope, Absolute Hell. With a new bassist and a new vocalist, it all just came together. This is the album FFAA was always trying to make. This is the album that deathcore as a genre has always needed. Brilliant arrangements, production that’s just dirty enough, head smashing riffs… the list goes on. I mean, it gets sludge, its gets straight metal, there are drops, there’s some crust, there’s even a bit of punk and melody. To top it off, it all fits together like an intricate puzzle, drawing you into is more obtuse elements.
All right, enough with the basic fellatio by way of prose. Let’s jump into some of the individual parts. First off, new vocalist Joe Badolato actually sounds like he gives a shit, which is great. So many metal vocalists just try to sound hard and evil without actually putting legitimate emotion into their performance. Not Joe. Joe has some stuff to work through, Joe is going to make sure you go on that journey with him … whether you can handle that or not. Ghosts in the River is probably the first deathcore song to give me chills. Though I will say, the beginning to Out to Sea is a bit of a vocal misstep. He’s obviously got some range and he should have used it there, clean vocal haters be damned.
Josean Orta – hats off to you, sir. The drum performance and styling on this album is just top notch. Sure, you’ve got the double kicks, the blasting, etc. that you normally find on this sort of album, but this guy works so many other little things into his arrangements that is takes it several steps above the standard 3 beat chumps (kick, blast, drop) that normally inhabit this genre. He also plays with much more subtlety. He’s not at 100% intensity all the time like so many others. There are ghost notes and rudiment mix-ups all over the place here. A lot of this albums dimensionality is due to his playing.
Maybe it’s just me, but all these songs just seem to nail the arrangement as well. For me, I kept saying to myself things like “They should totally get ambient here!” Lo and behold the song would get ambient. Or maybe, “Oh man, this build is perfect, instead of dropping they should go for some breakneck riffage.” And then the song would do just that. It was crazy. Will Putney and crew arranged the hell out of these songs, but unlike the previous efforts, managed to keep the spontaneity of creation intact.
Another thing that breaks the deathcore mold is the brilliant use of decidedly not heavy sections. They are used so well and they add so much to the album’s intensity as contrapuntal accents that it makes you take a step back and realize just how far up its own ass this genre has crawled with the boring crap other bands are spitting out. The album closer, Swing the Axe, is a prime example. Regardless of the lack of the expected chug this genre loves to doll out wholesale, you still find yourself bobbing your head and wanting to do a bit of that deathcore bounce.
This is one of those albums that make you ask the age old question of “Where do we go from here?” Is this the album that breathes new life into a stale and deadened genre? Or is it that last gasp of brilliance that serves as the culmination of what deathcore can achieve? The overall direction remains to be seen, but I do know this right now: This is one hell of an awesome album.