CD Review: The Faceless - Akeldama
For some reason, the YouTube test of guitar proficiency these days is how well one can play Necrophagist songs. Well, The Faceless would wipe the floor with all those schmoes. From death growls to sweep picking to neoclassical riffs to harmonized diminished runs to those cute little pregnant pauses, The Faceless have the Necrophagist sound down so well, I don't know whether to award or dock points for that.
But though one suspects The Faceless formed as a Necrophagist cover band (an admittedly ridiculous concept), the Encino, CA group is more than that. Once one gets past the Necrophagist-isms on its debut album, Akeldama, one hears quirks that Suiçmez and co. would never do.
First, there are keyboards. Usually metal bands use keyboards to play cheesy goth chords that only cloud up the mix. However, the keyboards here are tasteful, providing accents, countermelodies, and the occasional black metal touch a la Glass Casket.
Also interesting is the fact that some riffs are slightly Swedish. They don't reach the all-out At the Gates homage that's rampant today, but the influence is evident. Another cool touch is the clean singing in "Pestilence," which has nothing to do with good cop/bad cop business, but instead recalls the grand yet creepy singing Mike Patton sometimes unleashed in Faith No More.
By far, the highlight is the title track, an Atheist-meets-Steve Vai jazz fusion jam that's heavy, deep, and futuristic. It even has Cynic-esque robotic vocoder parts. If The Faceless keep pursuing this direction, they'll become death metal gods. This song, folks, is the future of metal.
There's a reason why The Faceless are touring with Necrophagist after only their first album. Not only can these guys shame your guitar teachers six ways to Sunday, their playing is tighter than an ant's asshole, and their songwriting is damn near perfect. These songs have absolutely no flab. Solos drop in and out with maximal impact and efficiency. The drummer knows exactly when to switch beats under riffs, and his fills are jaw-dropping. In fact, pretty much the whole album is jaw-dropping. When a band can make even clean tones sound shredding, as they do on "Ghost of a Stranger," they're onto something.