Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Years Spent Cold-Moving Heaven to Hell Review

Originally a group of friends from Boston, the straight-edge/hardline "gang" Friends Stand United (or Fuck Shit Up) has become a national phenomenon. Not only does it have groups in multiple cities (and incidentally has its FSU-branded clothing banned in multiple venues,) but its influence has extended from the hardcore scene to the metal/deathcore scene. Years Spent Cold is a band uniting themselves with the FSU gang. Their song "Toy Soldier" showcases some of their friends in the gang and ties to the NJ FSU. While one may not agree with FSU's method of dealing with Neo-Nazis or those they feel are "dangerous" to the scene or their friends, one cannot deny that many FSU bands, Years Spent Cold in particular, have produced some remarkable music.

Moving Heaven to Hell opens with "Intro," which is a collection of scary sound samples ending with the sound of a heart rate meter, which quickly transitions to "Ear to Ear." The shortest song on the CD (discounting Intro,) it serves to give a quick example of what the rest of the CD is going to sound like. Grunting, harsh vocals over deep guitar chugs. While a lot of bands have relied solely on "chugs," (hell, As Blood Runs Black has a song titled "Strife (Chug, Chug)" and they're still good) Years Spent Cold uses them solely to set an aggressive and dark mood or in breakdowns. In "Ear to Ear" the vocal parts are short and punctuated, and for every chug is a more traditional metal riff. Overall, this song essentially pumps the listener up for the audio assault that is about to follow.

And Years Spent Cold wastes no time attacking its listener's ear drums. The title track opens with some power chords, harsh grunting, and a blast beat, within the first 30 seconds. Years Spent Cold's hardcore influence is heard soon after, with the drummer and the guitarist working together to manipulate and shift the rhythm at will. After another session of slamming on the snare drums comes what at first seems like the introduction to a breakdown, but is simply a shift in the time signature. Signature stuff for a deathcore band, but it's executed well.

The next song, "Retribution" opens in a similar fashion, and contains some of the most uplifting lyrics in metal. "Fuck your face/Fuck your family" immediately comes to mind. Other similarly inspiring lyrics are found later on the album. My personal favorite is the chant at the end of "Abandon All Hope:" "How does it taste/you dickeating dirt bag?" Now, understand, this music is meant to be aggressive and thus must contain aggressive lyrics. The singer...erm...screamer...erm...vocalist isn't really insulting this listener (I hope.)

The vocalist is one of the most talented I've ever heard. Most of the time he screams with a guttural, dark grunt. During breakdowns, he often reaches lower than I thought possible. Once in a while he tries his more hardcore-esque medium-pitch yell, and he easily pulls it off.

The drumming is fantastic. Ultra-fast when it needs to be (check out "Lifeless.") Double bass is done well. Blast beats are hit with perfection. Cymbals are used very effectively. Overall, the drums have a very crisp sound, which allows the drummer to shift to a different rhythm cleanly, without any rough transitions.

Guitar parts are also executed very well. Nothing too technical, but technicality is not always important. The riffs are suitably dark, giving every introduction to songs that foreboding sound that can only precede a deep growl from the vocalist.

It's hard to review an album in this genre. If you're into this music, you know what to expect. Breakdowns, beatdowns, the occasional crowd chant, some sound samples, screams and grunts of various timbre, etc. This music is very much an acquired taste. If you already love this music, Years Spent Cold executes deathcore (or whatever they're calling it these days) perfectly. That being said, if you don't enjoy this type of music, start with something softer. Otherwise, you'll end up swearing this genre of music off altogether.

Crappy myspace bands, take note. Sound samples don't have to precede every breakdown. Guitar chugs don't have to dominate every track, nor do the guitarists have to tear into a solo in the last 30 seconds of every single song, nor do you have to squeal like a dying farm animal to be considered an extreme vocalist.


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