This Or The Apocalypse - Dead Years Review

This Or The Apocalypse - Dead Years
This Or The Apocalypse - Dead Years. eOne Music

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In Lancaster, PA., where This Or The Apocalypse call home, often, life is split between those whom seek to stay clear of the ways of the world, make furniture, churn butter, maybe raise a barn or two, and those who pick up nasty habits, snotty attitudes and spew as much noise as possible into the world around them. Dead Years is untroubled by such contrasts found in rural Pennsylvania.

Post-hardcore/not-so-post metalcore, This Or The Apocalypse has a big city and bright lights album ready to grab serious attention.

The ten songs on the album are each consistently intricate as well as cruelly intense. The unbelievable “A Damn Moment” is as good as anything released by Periphery or We Came as Romans, with whom TOTA has shared tours. The less adventurous opening track, “Hell Praiser,” is an over-the-top thermonuclear cloud of morbid ugliness bracketed by stacks of multi-layered guitar tracks that chime out bittersweet top-lines. “Hell Praiser” pounds so hard at times that subsonics threaten to suck the whole track into a dark hole where no bowel control is safe.

‘The best thing about cowards is no matter what their strength is, when everything goes wrong they always turn upon themselves’ Ricky Armellino shouts in “Power Hawk,” which Shakespeare mentioned 550 years ago, but TOTA takes the thought and spits the words out in less the eight and a half seconds.

Dead Years has one terrifying tempo that manages to allow lyrics to fly past faster than Demi Lovato’s career, while letting the instruments keep their powerful pace without sounding like a belt-sander on warp drive.

“In Wolves” is pure slap-fight metalcore, complete with too many breakdowns and the usual cleanly sung chorus melody that sticks in the brain like molten fudge.

The song sports five breakdowns where the otherwise excellent guitar work by Jack Esbanschad and Rodney Field is reduced to super-duper Morse code. Metalcore is all about how much dynamite can be detonated by guitars played like typewriters, but TOTA rises above by using their talent for stealthy melody and fresh arrangement variations.

Their anti-slavery sing-along, “You Own No One But You,” opens with a cacophony that threatens to spin off into space. The first minute sounds like a runaway locomotive crashing through a pot and pan factory during an earthquake. Floating above it all is a wonderful top-line that could’ve fallen off a Coldplay album. Multiple breakdowns, schizoid vocal trade-offs, a fabulous piece of Auto-tune loopiness at the 2:30 mark and guitars that strum dissonant fifths over drop sevenths summarizes the bulk of Dead Years tracks.

These aren’t cheap shots at TOTA and their fine new album. “A Damn Moment,” “Gaunt and Fierce” and “Hard Branch to Snap” are as good as it gets in this genre, easily placing the band in the same ranks as August Burns Red, Periphery and latter-day In Flames. TOTA has its own voice in the suffocating crowd of metalcore bands.

Dead Years plays by the rules but steps out of the boundaries enough to display TOTA’s commitment to bring something new to the noise.

Dead Years is half uranium-enriched metal and half broken-hearted disillusion. Peel away the murderous metalcore and a fascinating undercurrent of despairing beauty can be found. The secrets will reveal themselves as time is spent with the album… listen after listen. It is time well spent.

(released September 25, 2012 on eOne Music)

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