April 13, 2010

Album Review: "II: The Reign of Darkness" by Annotations of an Autopsy

The term "deathcore" is the new buzz word in metal. And by buzz word, what I mean is that, upon hearing the term, 75% of metal fans enter a buzz of anger over how the subgenre is supposedly killing metal, while the remaining 25% enter a buzz of excitement over how it is supposedly the most brutal music ever created. Because of the controversy surrounding the term, most deathcore bands have elected not to identify themselves with that particular tag. While most have taken the more tactful route of simply calling themselves "metal", a few have gone the riskier route of dubbing themselves as death metal bands. Annotations of an Autopsy is one of the bands in the latter category, and in their case, they used to fail greatly at playing music that could be passed off as death metal. But on their new album, II: The Reign of Darkness, they've started to make the transition towards death metal, although they hit several bumps in the road in the process.

When listening to a deathcore record, most metal fans can expect to hear riffs that are similar to things they've heard in the past. On II: The Reign of Darkness, that sense is definitely present, but even more so than usual. Most of the riffs on this record sound almost exactly like riffs written by Suicide Silence, Carnifex, Job for a Cowboy, and other death metal and deathcore bands in recent years. The album also suffers from another problem that all deathcore records share: a complete lack of musical subtlety. Apart from the instrumentals, almost every song is a sonic beatdown from start to finish. These two problems eliminate any chance that Annotations of an Autopsy has of distinguishing themselves from the countless deathcore bands on the scene today.

There are some positive factors that help this record, though. The biggest improvement comes from a refined vocal approach devoid of the much-maligned "pig squeal" that is synonymous with deathcore. Also, the breakdowns on the record are fewer than on past releases, and most of them appear on the second half of the album. The rest of the music maintains a mid-paced, sludgy atmosphere throughout. Lyrical maturation is another plus, as past cliché topics of gore and mutilation are abandoned in favor of mysticism and critique of organized religion (the latter of which is quickly becoming a cliché topic of its own). The album is also greatly helped by a guest appearance by Erik Rutan, producer extraordinaire and legendary vocalist of Morbid Angel, on the track "Bone Crown".

II: The Reign of Darkness shows that the band has some potential and is capable of reaching the death metal sound they strive for, if they can manage to abandon their roots. Annotations of an Autopsy will have to work very hard on their next album to attain the sound they're working to produce. This album might prove to be the turning point in their discography, but it might not. Fans of the band will like it, and casual death metal and hardcore fans could give it a shot. But when all is said and done, there's not much on this record to like except the hope for better music in the future.

Score: 4 out of 10

Track Listing

1. And So It Begins...
2. In Snakes I Bathe
3. Born Dead
4. Bone Crown
5. Emptiness
6. Catastrophic Hybridization
7. VII: The Horror, The Destruction...
8. Impale the Sun
9. Portrait of Souls
10. Cryogenica
11. Into the Black Slumber

Album Personnel

Steve Regan - Vocals
Jamie Sweeny - Guitar
Sam Dawkins - Guitar
Nath Applegate - Bass guitar
Brad Merry - Drums

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