Review: Guillotine A.D. “Born to Fall” [M-Theory Audio]

Review: Guillotine A.D. “Born to Fall” [M-Theory Audio]

- in Reviews
Score 77%
enjoyable but I can't remember a single riff on it by now
77 %
User Rating : 4.1 (1 votes)

Good death metal is a lot like a slab of nicely-cooked steak; if you slice it just the right way, you can look across it and see all the muscle fibers, running next to one another, and pick apart all the steps that the band took through its influences to get to what’s on your plate, which is still a wholly different experience from what actually hits the ear. Looking at Born to Fall this way, it wears its influences on its sleeve to a surprisingly refined extent — right at the jump, the Miller twins kick in the door with burly, groovy, weighty mid-tempo riffing, calling back through the conduit of Crowbar and Melvins to the nexus of early American death metal with thrash and Pantera, and Adam’s rasp balances somewhere between the back of his throat and wanting to open up completely into an unhinged howl, but the slurry mixture rarely thins out or speeds up; even when Lance is tremolo picking at machine-gun speed, the steady, rolling fills and the rest of the band hold him back to churn and whirr and lend force to the pounding drive unfurling at the center between all the low-end. There’s a lot of punch and force in the guitar tone to support the composition, reminiscent both of a traditional Scandinavian buzzsaw and the maxed-out mids of many of Guillotine A.D.’s contemporaries across the States, which lends gravity and substance to what would otherwise feel more like New York beatdown hardcore from the late ‘80s straight edge movement.

Indeed, a lot of the sound of this album, especially once the initial momentum of the opening salvo wears off, feels like framework supporting a very simple core formula. The riffs will pivot back and forth, swinging between syncopated groovy chugging and icy, winding, speed-picked  hearkening straight back to a burnt out Norwegian church, as will Adam’s snarling vocal performance, and every so often whatever rotational trickery is holding the churning at a constant angular velocity will falter and everything will speed all the way up or slow back to a complete crawl or Posey will have a brief drum break to punctuate affairs (and kudos to him for figuring out a perfect grenade-launcher thoomp), but everything eventually settles back to the same steady, teeming march forward through the endless bog of throaty screaming and galloping sludge. It’s compelling, at first, and remains at least partially so over the entire runtime of the album, but there are enough moments where the trick of expressing the same riff in a slower and more laboriously complex way and seemingly tilting the microphone towards the surely-raging mosh pit is repeated and then the band just pivots back to chugging that it takes all the life and air out of the resulting sound. By “Hammer” and atmosphere-drenched closer “Madness of the Gods”, even the dual-vocal studio tricks that exhume Deicide’s best element can only reinject so much life, and the swirling layers of buzzsawing blend together to such a complete extent that one riff seamlessly meets the next without either one making much of a substantive impression while they’re there.

Still, at the end of the day the worst that this implies for Guillotine A.D. is that a few cuts of meat might have to be left out of the bucket when it comes to tossing viscera out over a circling crowd, and that Born to Fall overstays its welcome by a mite, but there’s quite a lot of good, tender material to balance out the little pieces of gristle. It’s a well-refined product; the musicianship punches well above the band’s weight, and even in the most repetitive sections Lance’s tone is vicious, with a fittingly large and in charge rhythm section to match, framed by a mix that seems to cut pretty tight to the bone, perhaps in a way that’s even a little lean for their sound, as it leans colder and icier and closer to their black metal roots than the more colorful and imposing sound one would perhaps pair with the greater majority of the riffing on board. That may be my personal disagreement with Mastodon shining through, though, seeing as it is most certainly a product of Matthew Washburn’s touch, someone whose work I tend to admire from a distance more than I do spin on repeat. It won’t be my end of the year pick, but it’s probably somebody’s favorite record, and they’re going to have a hell of a live show.

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