Upon reading the tag of “technical death metal”, discerning listeners knows this usually only means “metalcore played with more notes”. Although DMU constantly looks down on genres like metalcore, very few readers understand the understand the underlying reasons for this. Those who identify as more “open-minded” tend to view all genres as simply “different expressions”. Although spiritually more mature, this thinking is based on an ignorance of the nature of music. In their ignorance, they do not understand the limitations and power of certain musical forms and the dangers of unchecked “experimentation”. On the opposite camp we have the die-hards, who may belong to either strict old-school or “true” associations. Most of these believe in the superiority of one style over another as a Catholic fanatic believes the words of the Pope or the Scriptures. In their ignorance, they would be unwilling and unable to acknowledge something as good music if it were to come from one of the vilified, retrograde genres.
Approaching the issue with enough information and without bowing completely to neither prejudice nor morally-supplied egalitarian fallacies we can find that different music styles bound by different types of expressions not only have different tendencies in the types of emotion they attempt to evoke, but that this intention has a connection to concrete aspects in the composition. This is no news to anyone with at least vague and rudimentary notions of musical composition. The next logical step in this train of thought, which is generally avoided for one reason or another, is to see how these specific choices for delimiters, technique and instrument choice impose limitations on character and direction that affect possibilities in variety if one is to maintain consistency and coherence. These limitations are, of course, constructs of humans, but they are based, at least partially, on human nature — not completely arbitrary rules arising from culture only. We must stress that these limitations are conventions taken up for the sake of attempting a communication as best as possible, conventions that have a mirror in language and grammar– also a proper set of conventions.
Now we come to Path of Ruin’s self titled album, a work arising from the metalcore camp but producing music of the best caliber possible in this genre. Such limitations arise in part from being built around vocals in the manner of hard rock (and consequentially rock). In hard rock the different riffs are meant to be separate sections that say different things in drastically different ways. This is not to say that this music cannot preserve consistency, what it has trouble with is coherence. To keep this partially incoherent expression in check, the power has to be limited to expanded or varied verse-chorus structures. Path of Ruin gives us the variety-bordering-on-incoherence metalcore while tying it up with motif and a very strong consistency and clarity of purpose. The clarity of purpose comes from one more imposition it sets upon itself: that of reusing past riffs as new sections, not necessarily a circularity but a coming back to balance the strangeness.
There is a famous precedent in the most misunderstood Obscura by Gorguts, which uses a very humble, even shy approach to organization that comes to pull back the blurry coherence and wide-range of expression it boasts. To exemplify not the contrary but an also consistent and technically accomplished release that fails to give meaningful variety (tied in coherent expressions) and balance to its music is Ara’s Devourer of Worlds. Both Obscura and this last one can be dizzying yet actually ride a very strong consistency but in the long run tend to stretch, twist, bend the motif beyond recognition to the point where you have highly contrasting sections. In favor of Ara, Devourer of Worlds‘ songs tend to extend riffs and ideas in longer riff-groups before changing direction or idea, becoming a commendable exercise in riff-variation at a local level. However, while Gorguts pulls the reigns on this crazy roller coaster ride that Obscura is by resorting to simple and straight up re-use of riffs — an approach they used with less pressure or necessity in The Erosion of Sanity, Ara spirals out of control ultimately becoming a collection of snippets and maybes that hold little interest beyond the riff-arrangement, but not the composition as a whole. It is a difference in the ability to see the big picture.
In a genre that by definition introduces heavy incoherence in the music, the safe approach taken in Path to Ruin comes as a wise decision that limits the music with the effect of awarding the album the power and clarity of good and balanced traditional speed metal.
Tags: 2015, ara, Devourer of Worlds, gorguts, metalcore, Obscura, Path to Ruin, The Erosion of Sanity
10 thoughts on “Path to Ruin – Path to Ruin (2015)”
“In their ignorance, they would be unwilling and unable to acknowledge something as good music if it were to come from one of the vilified, retrograde genres.”
But you say that as if the people you refer to have never actually listened to ANY metalcore. We all have – and our dislike of it is our reaction to the many bands in the genre we have all listened to. We FUNDAMENTALLY don’t like metalcore’s approach to music.
I really do understand that you’re trying to get this site a wider audience. And the much-more-frequent posts is certainly a good thing. But I don’t think constantly reviewing the “UK hard-rock-metalcore band Scythian’s” of this world is going to make this site more popular. Because the site’s old, loyal fanbase simply do not like this music and are unlikely to change their minds just because you tell them they are unenlightened for not ‘giving it a go’, like the hipster trying to convince his comrades that listening to that underground 80’s disco makes him cooler than they are.
And here’s the catch: there are many other well established websites were people can visit at any time to read about such bands. Why would those sites’ users start using this one instead? Very, very few of them tend to be the sort of people who like reviews treating metal as Art (which you still do, to your credit.)
The other side of the coin is that you run the risk of alienating this site’s old guard and may end up with even less users than before you took over the reins. This site was actually the ONLY site on the web that reviewed the type of bands it did, in the way it did. If the old users don’t find the material they used to come here for they’ll just stop coming. Notice how silent the message boards of any of the metalcore reviews are?
And the fans of Scythian will still just stick to Metal-Rules.com.
I appreciate it’s a tough remit you’ve got. And I also understand that you don’t want to appear slacking in your first few months and so have tended to post as much as is humanly possible each day. Just don’t lose your old users in the search for new ones.
If I could offer some advice it would be to post less about any-and-all the spurious new -core bands out there but INCREASE what you’re actually really good at: posting in-depth analyses of the type where you described the sonata form of Chapel of Ghouls, ‘appreciating metal and reverse engineering’, and even the tentative DM introductory listening suggestions. Have you noticed how many more comments those articles got?
“I really do understand that you’re trying to get this site a wider audience. ”
Not really, I myself am very prejudiced genre-wise, but upon listening, I try not to deny the merits of an individual band. I think this is all I’m getting at.
“The other side of the coin is that you run the risk of alienating this site’s old guard and may end up with even less users than before you took over the reins. This site was actually the ONLY site on the web that reviewed the type of bands it did, in the way it did. If the old users don’t find the material they used to come here for they’ll just stop coming. Notice how silent the message boards of any of the metalcore reviews are?”
Thanks for the advice. I don’t care much for the “old guard” itself. Worthy individuals that can see through, appreciate the value and adapt will stay. Besides, who cares about an “old guard” that isn’t contributing anything anyway? Let them come, let them go, it makes little difference.
Was the the Ara comparison really necessary? I listened to this band, and there is nothing in common between Ara and Path of Ruin, no matter how much the DMU has redefined the metalcore genre to be a catch all for any metal expression that isn’t palatable to their taste. I didn’t come away from this review with any idea of how the band sounded and instead just read another synopsis of how you think my band sounds, which we all totally get by now. You like restraint in songwriting. That’s great, but I like extremes and and if I chose metal as a path to exemplify chaos in a song format that doesn’t mean the arrangements are inherently shitty, just not your thing. You’ve sought out knowledge from philosophy and composers to enhance an already set viewpoint and that’s fine, but those are merely the opinions of other men and appreciation of an artform can be studied and templates for successful arrangement can be understood but reading other people’s ideas isn’t going to change what you like but provide you with a framework for why you like what you do. But as far as me just not getting it, know that my big picture is not your big picture, and that’s fine. If you don’t like Devourer of Worlds, let it fall under your radar instead of treating it like a benchmark example for poor songwriting, which as I’m sure you can agree there are far greater offenses recorded that you can do that with. I was going to just ignore this review and references to my band or me in general, but I feel like this and segments of the Blood Urn interview are highlighted to point in my direction for advice and you should know that I do want to improve as a songwriter, but my goals may not be yours, and where I improve may not may not be where you want me to go. As much as I feel you delight in browbeating others and come out on top in an argument, I assume you would agree for the sake of expression that artistry shouldn’t be funneled through the desires of an audience. I know the writers here do want to help musicians such as myself and do so in often tactless ways but the intent may be coming from a good place, but either way, if you have a chip on your shoulder about myself or my band or whatever, that’s on you and I don’t really care, but this review suffered from it.
You’re album is very accomplished in your genre and serves to exemplify certain aspects very clearly.
Just for the sake of those reading: how do you differentiate the above from simply disorganized songwriting? There are bands who achieve more chaos than you do, but it is unlikely their methods are as deliberate.
And the fact that a chaotic and poor music is intentional doesn’t make it less chaotic or poor.
This is a big pitfall of those trying to excuse the “anything is valid” approach.
I never go for “anything is valid.” I still uphold the idea of the song to be the goal every time, and as much as the themes of Ara songs mutate throughout each song, I make sure that the riffs in each song would only belong to the song in question in both mood and melodic choice. I like adventurous arrangements but still try to build songs around thematic development and the ebb and flow of climax and resolve. It may be difficult to hear how rhythmically and melodically I am twisting the ideas to showcase multiple perceptions of the themes but if you were to sit down with the sheet music or a guitar in your hands and played them it would probably be more clear. I understand that this is a fault and that you shouldn’t have to spell out something for the audience since that shows that your communication is cloudy, but there are some that hear it and some that don’t, some that resonate with it and some that don’t, like any music, especially an extreme choice as metal. I don’t like to show my hand immediately however and have always loved records that expose themselves over time while still engaging you in an initial listen, which is a delicate process.
As for what I think separates what I do from bands that I feel have disorganized writing, I would say that the one thing that echoes old school death metal in my writing is that the riffs are clear cut and not abstract. The riff and the arrangements are clearly defined to me but the note choice and rhythm are deliberately chaotic, although if you were to look at the arrangements of the songs you would see that if broken down they are way simpler than what passes for technical death metal nowadays. I don’t have a stomach for what Spawn of Possession or current Deeds of Flesh are doing because they have no restraint to their arrangements and any of their riffs could appear on any of their songs. On the other side of the coin I don’t have much of a stomach for Ulcerate, who I like on paper but rely on far to abstract an idea for me as shown in their riffless style. What I’m trying to do is more in line with what Theory in Practice did on The Armaggedon Theories combined with the rougher edges of say Yattering’s Murder’s Concept but with my own melodic take and arrangement ideas and a focus on the song. It clearly has missed the mark with you guys but knowing the compositional process intimately I of course would hesitate to call it poor music.
As bull-headed as I (and we all are) come off, I know I have many ways to improve and am excited by the idea. Improvement for me however means coming up with new ways to express myself rather than hone it to what people want or expect. I won’t feel fulfilled that way. However as not being a schooled musician, a professor sat down with me for a critique years ago and gave me some amazing advice that really helped me open up my writing. While I don’t expect anyone to take the time to do so, what I would love the DMU to do would be instead or saying the style is poor or the music is disorganized, to take a piece of my music and dissect it and ask why the choices were made and the relations are although that would require the sheet music or tab (which I have) and discuss my pitfalls scale-wise and within the arrangement. That is how I learn to improve.
Another approach I take as opposed to other modern metal bands is that I write albums rather than collections of songs. Each second of a record, including space in between songs, is carefully planned out to lead an audience through a certain emotional experience. There is a reason a more progressive song like “Insectile Aberration” is immediately followed by the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus arrangement of “Cadaverlanche.” I want the listener to be bewildered, uneasy, then pummeled by something simple and easily identifiable. Modern metal records typically take a dynamics-free approach and feel that brutality is best expressed by pushing everything to 11 all the time. I would rather manipulate the listener through varying moods and tempos to take them places rather than sit them in front of a 40 minute car crash.
“Another approach I take as opposed to other modern metal bands is that I write albums rather than collections of songs.”
that is true, and that is something I always praised in your latest album
I can see from your songwriting that you do not think “anything is valid”.
But sometimes it seems that that is what you write when you try to explain artistic freedom.
Perhaps I’ve misunderstood you.
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