We are in a day and age where the musicianship and technical proficiency of young artists are at an unprecedented level. Unlike generations of rockers past, it seems like today's crop of rock and metal artists actually care about playing their instruments and doing it with aplomb. This is a double-edged sword in that there is a fine line between being able to play technically and musical masturbation. I don't go to a concert to watch a guitar clinic or listen to a record merely to gasp, "Wow, how did they do that?" It takes another level of songwriting to be able to play and utilize theory and time changes and do it tastefully.
Some bands, like the Dillinger Escape Plan, fall into the former category, while Chicago's Born of Osiris succeeds on many fronts. I'm going to straight up say that if metalcore or any of its permutations make you cringe in disgust - firstly, get off of your high horse - secondly, A Higher Place is not going to change your opinion. While the basic formula is that of time-changing breakdowns and death metal vocals, the band is able to intersperse a surprising amount of melody and subtleness. However, unlike a lot of what is trendy at the moment, Born of Osiris does not employ its melodic side through poppy, clean-sung sections; there isn't a non-harsh vocal line to be heard on the record.
I think what makes A Higher Place so effective, despite employing a formula that has been done to death, is that they don't stay around too long. Weighing in at a scant 34 minutes, over the course of thirteen tracks, Born of Osiris keeps you wanting more with no song breaking the four-minute mark. The songs are fully realized, if sounding like they all run together at times, but feel much longer than they actually are.
As I said earlier, the single aspect that makes this album such a success is its use of melody in contrast to the aggressive riffs and syncopated double-kick work. The now-standard affair of dual-harmonized guitars is used frequently, along with soulful guitar solos and interludes, and just the right amount of keyboards. Used both for ambience and melody, there is a sense of atmosphere that the keys provide - almost a feeling of hope in the storm of harsh vocals. The quirky jams that pop up, like the occasional smooth jazz section, are what makes this record a real treat.
A Higher Place is a quick, fun jaunt through the land of melodic and technical deathcore. Take it for it is and learn to appreciate the unexpected amount of presence it creates, and you will be in for an enjoyable listen.