Within The Ruins have been making quite a name for themselves recently in the death-metal genre. With their 5th album release (and third via E1 Music record label) Halfway Human has expectations to reach. Let me give you a track by track review.
Opening with a low beefy riff on Shape Shifter, with a classic death-metal approach, you are anticipating what is to follow. With many fret tapping notes to bridge between this and an onslaught of guitar licks and pounding drums. There is a very clear cut out point on the riffs through the track which makes it sound almost too over-produced, taking away that real sound. Overall the song itself is very well structured.
Death Of A Rockstar bursts out of the gates racing into a chaotic verse, until reaching the chorus and a back layer of singing while the deathly screams continue to growl out. Mid-song you have a pure 90’s metal solo, followed with a marching like riff bridge back into the mix up of singing and screaming overlapping each other ending on a very sudden death metal run down.
Beautiful Agony starts in great comparison to songs I’d expect to hear from August Burns Red, very experimental with timings, and chugging guitar verses with impressive little licks of the guitar as the vocals are dominating. A chorus with an eerie backing vocals chanting “This is true power”. A more slower and fade out approach as you reach the end of the track, still keeping the heavy tones.
A riff filled with Wah-pedal opens Incomplete Harmony as the vocals and kick drum enter in together until brutality is unleashed again and an interesting step down as drums become more simplified in a very stomping style. Sticking to this melody throughout the majority of the song, with a change in dynamics makes it that much more interesting. It gets even more interesting when you reach a reggae (Yes, you read correctly) bridge still channelling those screams through the unlikely combination of genres.
As Bittersweet feels like a deja vu of the usual suspect in Death Metal common ground, you soon hear interesting additions flowing in the background of a guitar riff sounding almost like a synth while angelic choir boy synth is actually placed into the mix. An electric guitar squealing solo, Spanish guitar strings and slow gritty sub-bass are the plot twist of this once raging cliché of a track. Makes you feel stupid for doubting its unique sound… Until you realise the last riff is identical to the previous song.
A soft opening with Objective Reality with a faint voice growing from an echo into a sung chorus. A steady and heavy roll through the verse into a sea of triplet strums and smashes of the drums with a guitar leading a melody over the top. As you find the chorus adding the screams, I can’t help but wonder if maybe for this song, they should have stuck to just a sung chorus.
Absolution rips out a harmony riff like hearing through a telephone until vocals scream “You’ll never know unless you survive” which I can see being their next slogan for a t-shirt. Such a powerful line to open a song with. As you power through a verse into a more galloping verse, they show off some tech-metal ability they have with the very sudden cut off points to the instruments. Mid song you start to realise how much these like to drop a classic 90’s metal style solo into the tracks.
Showing their ability to riff hard, they don’t stop with Ivory Tower once again though, using the telephone effect for the intro. Hammer-ons are harmonized by 2 guitars that lay over the main structure of the song and change in dynamics on the drums makes all the difference. At the 2 minute mark you revisit the telephone effect again which then feels like a repeat of the first 2 minutes.
Sky Splitter moves back to the straight up heavy and fast paced intro, soon to hear what I feel there is not enough use of during the album… A member with a great singing voice, as a short chorus closes. The use of a beatdown style verse which soon feels like “hardcore dancers” will be in the pit 2-stepping and throwing spin kicks.
Ataxia IV is a near 7 minute interlude of ripping solos and showmanship. Personally, these guys have nothing to prove with their skills of playing, they have been shredding riffs and solos throughout the album. This could of easily been used as another track with vocals included.
Bass almost sounding sub during Treadstone as it is very prominent and distinctive. Smashing between snare and kick like a metronome when the vocals begin, it jumps between this and a quickened pace a couple of times. A chorus delivers with hasty drums and clean vocals. Later another solo sounding more automated in the style of a synth overpowers the duration of the song.
Technicality this album has it, structure base too. But something felt missing for the majority. With an amazing talent, I feel the clean vocals could have had more of the spotlight, some choruses could have more impact with that in place. And with the guitar sudden stops in solos with no ring out, it felt very automated and clipped the cut off point too sharply. If you are a fan of less clean vocals and tech-metal then it hits the nail on the head, but on a personal level when you have hidden talents not being put to use as much, it feels a waste.