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Technical Melodic Death Metal
Metal Blade Records
May 8th, 2012
Release length: 52:58

Hailing from Fort Collins, Colorado, Allegaeon (pronounced uh-lee-juhn) came together in 2008. That very year, they issued a self-titled EP themselves, and two years later were picked up by Metal Blade Records. Their debut full-length, Fragments of Form and Function dropped back in 2010 to much praise, though greatly slipped under the radar of many fans. Today, they have issued the much anticipated follow-up recording, Formshifter, but this time as a four piece. Since their last outing, drummer Jordon Belfast is no longer involved, leading to the use of a session musician named JP Andrade. But, will this have any impact to the successor of their previous well acclaimed recording?

Given the response to their previous album, it’s not surprising that the audio quality to Formshifter is as good as it is. The tight, crisp audio quality holds a slightly darker tone to it, having a mechanical atmosphere that works well with the more science-driven lyrical content. The vocals are superb and stand out the most on the recording, having a strong mixture of guttural and enthusiastic rasps with layered background vocals of the same vatriety, all of which perfectly blends with the music. The lead guitars have that traditional heavy, but still a bit clean distortion to them you would find on any Melodic Death Metal recording, while a bit of a dirtier rhythm guitar can be made out behind it against a loud, dominant bass that literally hammers away at the listener, and aids to the harsher sound of the rhythm. The drumming is captured well. The cymbals crashes are clear, but are a little further in the mix that allows an echo to come through, as well as how great they sound when allowed to just ring out after being struck. The snares are tight and kick back with a lower tone that can often come through intimidatingly. The bass kicks, however, are just as loud as the rest of the kit, but just a little less obvious than the chords. They still have a decent click to them that is distinctive to the final product, which meshes well with everything else to bring a certain authority with it.

While still a technical recording, Allegaeon focus more on timing than mind numbingly complex chords. This causes Formshifter to largely be a mid-tempo recording. Thankfully, the quality of each song holds enough unique material to keep the experience fresh with each new offering, even with the longer ones. “Behold (God I Am)” may not seem like a great song at first, but it’s one you’ll quickly grow to enjoy, as well as presents the rest of the album well. The track holds a very subtle “epic” foundation to it that feels a bit apocalyptic thanks to the mesh of fast bass kicks and equally speedy riffs in some verses and bridges. You really pick up on the larger, energetic performance well due to the clarity, and the guitar solos are often short, sweet, and well suited to the flow. The grim offering ends up far more aggressive than “Iconic Images,” six seconds shorter than the aforementioned, which overall maintains a solid mid-tempo flow from start to finish during the actual song. There is a beautiful Spanish serenade style acoustic piece before, but largely after the Metal performance. These elements are meshed in well enough, though the transitions do still feel a bit jerky. The actual song, roughly four minutes, seems to play it safe with well executed Melodic Death Metal that isn’t anything too awe-inspiring, but still has enough edge and aggression to keep you entertained. The additional backing vocals really help to keep things going, but aside that, there really isn’t much else to say about it that hasn’t already been said. This ends up being one of the more uninspiring songs, but yet still manages to get your head banging along, and remaind far from a boring, regretful experience.

Much like “Iconic Images,” “A Path Disclosed” moves at that similar uneventful Melodic Death Metal mid-tempo pace, but still manages to hold enough quality material to make it enjoyable. Some of the more technical melodic hooks are great, and it definitely holds a darker presence with a little extra bite thanks to the aggressive drumming and use of layered guttural background vocals against the raspy shouted leads. The guitar solos can pick up the pace, and overall the track feels more mechanized in atmosphere than others can be, partly due to the additional keyboards you can overlook if listening at a low volume level, with enough changes to the music, including a few bridges that allow the bass a quick line to stand out here and there. Unfortunately, that bit, as well during some solos on “Secrets of the Sequence,” ae the only times the bass really is given some time to come through itself. “From the Stars Death Came” also has some additional complex riffs throughout, but for the most part feel simplified by it’s speed. Random additional outbursts from the drums allow it to grow in a very restricted manner, but the chorus and guitar solos are simply beautiful, and really make up for some of the less rich, but still catchy enough to head bang to material. Of course there’s the title track “Formshifter” that also amps up the speed a bit, and really focuses on sounding a little more hostile and complex. This shifts towards a darker, dismal approach towards the end thanks to the breakdown that ensues, really allowing the drums to stand out and show the bite that they have, but is masked by everything else.

Honestly, there isn’t much else to say about Formshifter. This isn’t the most spellbinding album you will come across, and the lack of stand out bass riffs aside the volume is almost criminal. But, it does have one great perk: Quality. Each song on here has just enough technicality, if not a little excess, to keep you content each time through. The melodic elements are all well executed and will easily hook the listener, the atmosphere is rich and matches the lower tone of the audio, the recording quality is great, and there’s plenty of replay value to be had. Sure, much of this feels watered down compared to some of the more technical groups of today, but it’s far from sterile, and still has a pretty aggressive edge, if not a hostile one, that assures you Allegaeon didn’t intend this to just be a safe recording that even the mainstream would pick up on right away. However, for fans of Metal, this does become an accessable release that is definitely worth checking out, and is nearly fifty three minutes of your life you won’t soon regret.

01. Behold (God I Am) – 7:18
02. Tartessos: The Hidden Xenocryst – 4:24
03. A Path Disclosed – 4:29
04. Iconic Images – 7:12
05. Twelve – 4:25
06. The Azrael Trigger – 5:01
07. From the Starts Death Came – 5:26
08. Timeline Dissonance – 3:22
09. Formshifter – 5:19
10. Secrets of the Sequence – 6:03
Overall Score: 9/10

Digital review copy of this release provided by Metal Blade Records.
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