I'd like to first preface this review by saying that I have never been one of those elitist metal critics who only sticks to their tried-and-true favorites from the 80's, who automatically judges music from current young bands as worthless (with the glaring exception being the nu-metal trend of the early 21st century, which can hardly be dubbed as metal ). In fact, amongst others, I did indeed go through a "New Wave of American Heavy Metal"/metalcore phase and am rather fond of choice albums from said genre. Great, now that we've gotten that out of the way
Without a doubt, the current crop of bands waving the metal flag are some of the most talented and old-school minded players since Pantera dropped the torch somewhere around The Great Southern Trendkill, God Forbid being no exception. That being said, there is a fine line between having the technical prowess of your inspirations - a kudos I certainly give to the young players wanting to actually perfect their craft - and being as timeless and accomplished of songwriters as they were.
To put it bluntly, a lot of today's modern metal lacks both the song craftsmanship and the subtle nuances that made the aggressive metal acts of yesteryear as heralded as they are today. All of the elements are present: blazing solos, frantic double kick, riffs out the ass, and an aggressive vocal delivery; but that's the problem. It seems like so many bands are following a formulaic checklist of ingredients that, on paper, would describe many of the greats, but without the soul bring them to life, end up lacking.
Up until now, you may be feeling that this is actually not a review but rather an editorial piece on the current state of metal, and you'd be right. However, the previous paragraph perfectly applies to the way I feel about Earthsblood. In fact, my sentiments about the currently state of metal have not really come to a head in such as a way as they have for me on God Forbid's newest full length. All of the elements of a quality metal record are present on Earthsblood. The band can certainly play; that is not even in question. However, the album feels too "perfect." The guitar tone is digital and lifeless, lacking the imperfections and warmth of classic albums, not to mention a consistent use of down-tuning that only serves to act as a faux heaviness.
The drums are overproduced to perfection, with a machine-like, inorganic consistency to the way they sound when hit. Even the solos, though certainly accomplished, feel like they are lacking a soul, perhaps suggesting that they were stitched together at points in Pro Tools in order to get it "perfect." Yet at the same time, it is not produced "wrong." Everything sounds like a polished release from a band of God Forbid's caliber, yet, therein lies the problem. This record sounds like every other modern metal album released in the past two or three years, from both a creative standpoint, and a tonal, production standpoint.
Musically, there is not much to comment on, being a fairly standard half-thrash/'core hybrid. The album makes use of downtuning, trying to achieve the sound Nevermore has popularized. Unfortunately for God Forbid, they don't have Jeff Loomis writing their songs, serving only to drag even more life out of stock song arrangements. In fact, I cannot honestly pick out a particularly memorable song or section because they all sort of blended together during my listens.
Previously, the Coyle brothers had been providing varying degrees of backing vocals in addition to their six-string duties, which had been more or less working for them. However, the single most annoying aspect of this release is the almost 50/50 mix of the Coyle brothers' clean vocals and Byron Davis' harsh shouts. In almost every song, whiney, nasally clean vocals can be heard during a chorus, completely grating on the listener's ears and taking away any aggressive edge the song had been building.
I enjoyed Gone Forever back when I was in a metalcore
phase, and loved the more thrashy direction they went with on their
subsequent release, Constitution of Treason. I was hoping that Earthsblood
would continue that same maturation and see God Forbid reach that next
echelon as artists and truly release their opus, especially after a
nearly four-year studio hiatus. Unfortunately, I was mistaken.