March 23, 2012

The Faceless - Planetary Duality (2008)

The Faceless seems to be one of those bands that's built around a hideously technical machine-freak of a guitarist, namely Michael Keene, with the rest of the members trying their best to keep up with him. Maybe that's not the case, maybe they have a totally mutual, equal relationship within the band, with everyone contributing the same - I dunno, I don't really care, I guess.

Planetary Duality is their sophomore effort and sees them trying to get rid of the deathcore elements prevalent in their previous record, Akeldama, and basically trying to get in with the tech death crowd. I'm a little torn when it comes to this second album, actually. While I do agree with the people complaining that it sounds really clinical and sterile, I've also listened to it  a bunch of times and it never fails to entertain me. Most of the songs on Planetary Duality can be accurately described as sonic hurricanes, in that there's so much going on all the time that it's hard focusing on anything in particular.

Michael Keene is an absolute beast, delivering staggeringly intricate guitar lines, playing a million notes per second and churning out tons of sweeping arpeggios, while also delivering some pretty great spacey solos and warm, clean interludes. The rhythm section is also complex, as you may imagine: the drummer blasts his way through an unimaginable amount of highly technical drum fills and rhythm changes, while the bassist is clearly some dude who likes jazz and is there just to provide a low-end backdrop that's on par with the rest of the instrumental section. The vocals are pretty standard growls that don't exhibit much range yet are completely suitable to the music, managing to successfully deliver the menacing message of impeding planetary collisions and human genocide inflicted by marauding technically-advanced aliens. Or whatever.  There's also a few moments of awkward vocoder vocals and, while I appreciate this subtle nod to Cynic, they don't have that otherworldly, ethereal sheen we've enjoyed on Focus and Traced in Air, instead sounding murky and barely intelligible.

I actually set out to give Planetary Duality a rave gushing review, but I guess I've come to realize that it's not really as amazing as I thought. I think my main problem with it is that there's barely any feeling to the music - instead, it sounds like I'm expected to just gawk at the guitarist and pick my jaw off the floor in response to his freakish abilities. Yes, Michael Keene is a total monster and I couldn't come up with a millionth of the shit he pulls of even if I had ten arms, but I would have liked to hear more than ultratechnical, Skynet-approved riffing. Sometimes it's really hard making sense of all this madness.

Still, it's not bad at all and, like I've said, I enjoyed listening to it. The Faceless are working on a new album that's supposedly up for release this year, so I'm definitely excited to hear it. To cap things of, a sub-par live video of them performing a song off Planetary Duality. Check out Michael Keene and his octopus fingers.


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