As Hell Retreats: Volition

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As Hell Retreats: Volition
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As Hell Retreats: Volition
Groove Metal, Metalcore
Ain’t No Grave Records
July 26th, 2011
Release length: 39:18
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As Hell Retreats is a newer band that brings together the Metalcore sound with Thrash and Death Metal. The Hendersonville, Tennessee act formed back in 2005, and focuses more on performing songs with a Christian lyrical theme. While I have gone on record as saying that I am not the biggest fan of Christian themed releases, I’ve happened on some acts that are really impressive. Considering Volition is actually the group’s second full-length recording, it’s easy to walk into the album with high hopes and dismiss the fears of typical Christian-themed album faults. However, most of my concerns were confirmed the second Volition started, but does it pick up as the album goes on?

One of the biggest complaints to the recording is the audio quality. The overall production value is not bad, having a bit off muddied sound to it, but it just sounds so generic, not really having much of a heaviness or bite to the audio. It has an edge, just nothing too great. The guitars sound really clear, the bass is there but not too prominant, and the drums are ok and the proper levels throughout the kit. The vocals sound a little muffled, moreso then the actual music, and when it all comes together it’s not bad, but it sounds a little hollow and sterile. But, then again, it’s hard with the music as well. Right away Volition opens up with a groove heavy A Life Once Lost sound meets a more Progressive Metalcore approach tacked on. The Groove Metal moments are alright, but feel insanely empty, and the quality of the music lacking any real heaviness to it immediately leaves it open and hollow with too much dead air between the notes. And the more Progressive elements really don’t do it justice considering they just feel tacked on without much of a transition. This is the welcome that the album gives off as soon as it starts up, but luckily it’s not how the rest of the album sounds.

The last Progressive part of the song is actually an interlude track titled “The Loss”, which is ok for a Progressive Rock kind of track, nothing too special, but it acts as odd segway between “Young Heretic” and “Matriarch”. “Matriarch” is actually where the album starts to pick up a little. The song still retains that Groove Metal meets Metalcore sound, but it’s tighter and without as much open gaps of dead air, finding the band filling the music nicely to create a rich sound that does feel heavier and have more of a bass impact to it then on the previous track. The song isn’t the most original sounding, but it’s a lot better and shows the band does have the bite to back up the bark that “Young Heretic” tried to give off. The breakdown also works well for the song, though again, nothing too original or unique. This is about what you could expect through the rest of the album, though there’s less of a Progressive feeling to the music, which greatly works in the band’s favor but does pop up the closer to the end you get (and is at least worked in better without coming off tacked on for no reason), though there are moments that feel empty and hollow like “Young Heretic” does scattered about, like the build up to the breakdown at the end of “Heaven’s Bane”. There are moments that bring that environment back, like “A Beggar…” with it’s more sympathetic and melodic sound that gives off that atmosphere, but other then that it can lie in the solos, but more a background vibe then an upfront important element of the music.

There isn’t really a huge amount of variety to the music, much of the album sticks to that shouting vocal approach with Groove based Metalcore music from start to finish, maybe a haunting couple of chords that give it a slight Progressive vibe, but that’s it. When tracks like “…And His Faith” kick in though, it really breaks up some of the growing monotony. While the other songs on here are actually good, it’s this Thrashier song with a strong two-step approach and just different overall vibe will renew your interest in the material. The track doesn’t last that long, but what is given is a lighter sound like much of the album has given so far, but just with a little extra attitude to it. Of course this doesn’t last long as “Transgress” does kick in with the same A Life Once Lost Metalcore style Meshuggah Groovem though the rhythm guitar adds a little extra to it, and the background chants that appears far in the mix at times work well to give it a little more edge a heavier feeling. This is also another track that has those short Progressive guitar chords in the background that work to give it a slight atmosphere for a bit and actually work out instead of feeling tacked on.

There’s really not much that can be said about the album. As Hell Retreats is far from an original sounding band, but Volition is not a bad album. It’s not one of the greatest or most unique, but it’s still got plenty of good songs that could have been heavier in the final quality, and really gets off to a rocky start. If you like a lighter Metalcore sound and a hint of Progressive Rock, it’s not that bad a release, and as you go through it, Volition does pick up and get better, though still could use a little more to break up the monotony a bit other then just “…And His Faith” and the various short Progressive Rock moments and interludes scattered about. Overall, if you’re looking for casual Metalcore album that’s just good with a solid performance, with or without Christian themes, Volition by As Hell Retreats is worth checking out when you get a chance.

01. Young Heretic – 3:14
02. The Loss – 0:55
03. Matriarch – 3:38
04. Shun – 3:12
05. Heaven’s Bane – 3:20
06. Misanthropist – 3:34
07. A Beggar – 2:45
08. …And His Faith – 3:11
09. Transgress – 3:38
10. Desperation – 3:07
11. Creator(s) – 2:10
12. Only Hope – 6:29
Overall Score: 7.5/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by Ain’t No Grave Records.