Alpha isn’t an album that goes right for throat, but rather one that takes its time hitting you upside the head with a ball-peen hammer in order to set up the necessary atmospheres that better make sense the more time you put into it. “Transcendency” starts off a slow burn, utilizing some synth effects in the background to build a mourning backdrop to the depressive guitar notes, and eventually a simple bass presence. This goes on for a good ninety seconds before we’re interrupted with a simpler one-chord chug breakdown that grows until a second, more violent one hits not too long later. While it sounds bland, the band does a great job keeping the misery-soaked atmosphere alive in this introductory track before bleeding into the djent-heavy “The Collapse”. Tight Meshuggah-esque riffs with plenty of enthusiasm pound into your skull, though the vocals immediately pull your attention with how much louder they are compared to the rest, not allowing the music to mask some of the faults in the deeper growls that make it seem like vocalist Din Stonehouse is straining his vocal chords.
In many ways, “The Nature of Existence” keeps with the same formula. The song takes its time, though some of the lead hooks play up more of a scientific environment than anything depressing. There’s a little extra intricacy in the main verses as well, not to mention some obnoxious high-pitched effects from the guitar that sound more like turn table additions to the first breakdown if not paying attention. This one’s far more fluid too, even when throwing some hardcore chanting in that kind of progresses the story of this track on what is said to be a conceptual album.
Of course, there are some times where Forward Unto Dawn drops a little extra aggression into the mix. “Concord & Dissolution” does take its time, carrying on the established environment of “The Collapse” well enough at first. It also is one of the more technical tracks. Just past a minute in you are greeted with high complexity in the guitars that leads you to wonder if the band is trying to hit avant-garde levels, but in a less eccentric manner. These wind up being a key to the madness that erupts towards the end, as if having lost control of all sanity to unleash a storm of pent-up rage, a nice treat to those patiently waiting for such a little outburst to occur. “State of Duality” finds a little more tension in the air thanks to the tight, frantic guitar work that appears from time to time, as if the buzzing from a horde of pissed off bees between the bleak mid-tempo passages.
Alpha winds up a pretty strong effort overall. The production on this release sounds great, aiding the varying atmospheres Forward Unto Dawn is able to muster. However, it does hurt the deeper growls thanks to making them loud enough to put their faults and obvious strain on display. There’s a lot of varying styles to take in all at once, ranging from mathcore, deathcore, groove/djent, not to mention the obvious progressive overtones, and, even if you are a fan and get it the first time around, this really needs additional time to let it all sink in to observe just how each of these incorporated styles and elements play out for the greater good. If you can give this just under thirty minute offering that time, you’ll find plenty of great songs to come back to. If not, or just want something that punches you square in the face right out of the gate, then Alpha isn’t the release for you.