Sunday, November 20, 2016

Album Review: Enbound - The Blackened Heart

There is an odd crossover between rock/metal and the theater. They don't seem to be at all connected, but we've now seen singers who have stepped foot in both worlds. Dee Snider, Sebastian Bach, and James Labrie have all taken their turn on stage, and on the stage. Enbound, a newer entry into the world of melodic metal, is another band with a singer who has plied his trade in that other world. What is interesting is how the two are entirely different approaches to singing, and yet the singers return from their sojourns without having learned anything they can apply to their bands. It certainly brings questions to mind.

But back to Enbound. Their style of melodic metal is one that is thoroughly modern, which means the melodic component is up for debate. We get deep, chugging guitars that borrow the rhythmic approach of much of modern heavy metal. Everything locks together into a pounding fury of instruments, but that nature makes it hard to be melodic. There isn't any melody to rhythm, so all of the heavy lifting has to be done by the vocals. That doesn't leave much room for error, so there is a definite tightrope Enbound needs to walk.

The opening "Falling" shows a good example of what I mean. The basic foundation is what you would expect from a modern metal record, but the vocals are never able to find a spot to throw in a melody. They sound good enough, but there isn't a hook to the vocal line at all, and the song feels far longer than its under four minute running time. This is the danger in playing this kind of music. If you falter slightly in the hook, there's nothing to fall back on.

The next few songs remedy that fault, but not as much as necessary. The melodic component is stronger, and there is more of what would qualify as classic hooks, but they still don't have the gripping power that they need to. This is mere conjecture on my part, but I wonder if the time spent on the theater stage has something to do with this, where projection and vocal power in telling the story can sometimes overwhelm the need to have memorable songs. That's the feeling I get from listening to this record.

There are songs here where the main melody is a simple chant, and others where the chorus is the softest and most subdued part of the track. These decisions put all the focus on, puzzlingly, the guitars. That sets us back to a place where everything is about the rhythms, and the simple chug a few notes riffs. It doesn't feel like an approach that understands songwriting works best when every part of a song brings something memorable to the table. These songs are, for lack of a better way of expressing the thought, forgettable.

So what Enbound have done is something countless bands have done this year. They've delivered an album that is competent, and well played, but offers little to nothing that will stick out from the hundreds of albums we will be exposed to. There's certainly a place for a band that can make decent music, but it's hard to get excited about something quite so bland.

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