REVIEW: THE FACELESS – AUTOTHEISM

Reviewed by Leo Kindred
The tech death outfit of aliens, lofty concepts and, now, narratives about the advancement of humanity beyond religion, have again foisted themselves upon us with this long awaited, by me anyway, third release. With a new set of members, leaving only mastermind guitarist Michale Keene as the sole remaining founding member, the direction of this increasingly diverse sounding record is far beyond what’s been attempted up till now, and will, amongst other things, go the final furlong  in shutting up the critics and naysayers who thought they were just another deathcore band with fast guitaring.

For on opener ‘Create‘ the brow creases and you wonder if you’re listening to Tool. I’m not clear if it’s new singer Geoffery Ficco or Michael Keene, could be either, who provides the clean higher-end finesse on vocals for the track’s entirety, and you begin to wonder what you’re in for.  But as the album lays itself out before you like the proverbial new special from a favoured eatery or, indeed, brothel, things become clearer. The end result, for me at least, is mixed. Overall the structure and basic tone of the album is not that different from previous record Planetary Duality, which I felt was a little undercooked.

Autotheism‘s length is, again, shortish and, also like PD, the riffing and brutal soloing has the familiar compositional hallmarks. However, there can be nothing but praise for the glorious ambition and vision inherent in the new elements incorporated into the familiar vehicle of The Faceless. The Hammond organ, fairground refrain and, well, SAXOPHONE! on ‘Emancipate‘, plus the industrial-feel crashing noises; it makes me draw a comparison to one-time touring partners Cynic for the sheer level of experimental aspects.

Plus there’s some brain-sawing guitar sections, shining solos and a short track with a Stephen Hawking electronic voice intro, before a flurry of guitar lines and gut-scraping riffs with the casual throw-away dischord explodes in your face; all welcome familiar staples of Faceless works. There is, also, a lot more happening in terms of atmospherics, strings sampling, keyboards and programming, at times taking on an almost Devin Townsend level of depth with the layers of arrangement and production, which your average deathsters wouldn’t have a fucking clue about how to touch.

So, a new paint job? A new set of wheels? Or is our car-based metaphor undone by this being  something else altogether?

The truth is, prosaically for this strained similie, closer to a new leather interior, a better folding roof and some classy tinting of the windows. It looks and feels different, but is, yet, the same car.
The next question is more important, how much does it rule? and the answer is: quite a bit but for the wait and given what they’re capable of…

Autotheism is simultaneously several contradictory things at once. New, yet tried and tested. Inventive, yet familiar. And, unfortunately, aspirational, yet a little disappointing.
A continuation of Planetary Duality, whilst cannibalising some new bells, whistles and adding some laudable ostentatious embellishments, is not quite what I was after.
I still lament the catchy fist-pumping riffing and fluidity of their debut, which has stayed gone, and what you’re left with is basically the bones and body of a gradiose, well-crafted, Death Metal concept record which takes everything in continuingly experimental direction.

The execution is flawless, because as bad as I feel for not loving it, there is very little wrong here and you shouldn’t smack a band or artist down for trying something a bit different or being good at what they do. That being said The Faceless, despite the immense wealth of ability and vision, are still, somehow, for me, not quite hitting their stride with what is a very good album, but not a fantastic album. Very good is great, but fantastic would be awesome.

Bottom line though, if you want extraordinarily competent, fast, cerebral, nerdy, progressive death metal, look no further than this shining example of diverse brutality.
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