By Georgi Bomb
Denver five-piece, Allegaeon, release their follow up to Fragments of Form and Function in early May and it’s been a long time coming.
Guitarist Ryan Glisan considers it a look to the future but also acknowledges the past.
This is the first thing that’s apparent about Formshifter, it definitely feels lighter but a progression nonetheless. Heavier isn’t always best and this stands as fairly sturdy second album.
Sturdy it may be but unfortunately it isn’t a stand out album, which is a shame as there is clearly so much potential to build here but it seems to be narrowly missed each time.
Concentrating on the twiddly guitar solos, that are rife in technical death metal, definitely brings the album down and it would have been great if there was more accentuation on the darker elements, the subtle breakdowns and changes in tone that crop up here and there.
The intro track could be classed as a false start when the opening track eventually kicks in. A definite comparison can be made to the insanity of Ihsahn throughout Tartessos: The Hidden Xenocryst. It’s littered with twinkling guitar solos and the breakdowns here are subtle, which makes a nice touch.
The Spanish acoustic part at the end of Iconic Images gives a fantasy-like feel and features halfway through, as an interval, yet detracts from the album; the next track is needed as a reminder it is Allegaeon playing.
Twelve, the latest single, starts as it means to go on – that’s with anger and a purpose. This makes an interesting movement from Azrel Trigger, whose groove is so delicately placed throughout, it makes a decent contrast that definitely compliments.
There is a lot going on with this album and thankfully, it does seem structured in some places. In others though, it just borders messy and definitely hangs in the balance, almost teetering over in the scatty.
The amount of changes in tempo and tone lead to distraction and merge into each other. One thing that stands strong here, is that each part will eventually lead back to the twiddling and growling – the comfort zone, so to speak.
From The Stars Death Came is a stand out track. Starting dark and black; the speed is high and in a creepy fashion, the tech vibe descends to alter the track completely. The tone moves so much throughout that by the end, it sounds like a different song. A real shame as the intro is a definite hook.
Pummelling sounds is one way to describe Timeline Dissonance, which holds up in a military fashion and doesn’t stray away from the punching and weighty sound of the drums.
The final song, Secrets of the sequence, has fantastic bass solos but it doesn’t expand on this, reverting back to the twiddles and typical ‘tech metal’ sound. The spanish element alters the tone and brings Formshifter to a close.
Although not the strongest of second albums, Formshifter has some positives; there is no denying the technical abilities of the band and that is very clear. But it hasn’t been written in a way to compliment these talents and the mix feels competitive like each part is fighting for centre stage.
In spite of this, there are some stand out tracks that need to be heard: From the Stars Death Came, Twelve and Tartessos: The Hidden Xenocryst are quality creations and, hopefully, strong enough to outweigh the negatives.
Formshifter, by Allegaeon is out May 8, through Metal Blade Records