Article’s main photo credit: Jason Gemnich
The hard-working music promoters from ASHER MEDIA RELATIONS share with us the Canadian Metal scene’s hyped music outputs and up-and-coming talents; there’s some serious Metal talent in Canada, from Extreme to Technical Metal and Prog, with often impressively recorded music. UNBOWED is one of those young bands that have such talent and are figuring out their sound.
The reason I am reviewing it is to investigate and critique the difficulties of finding a unique sound and the high possibility that the end product will not turn out highly successful or even enjoyable. Is an expected sound a bad thing? Is different always good?
To answer these questions, here’s something from the press kit: “Through Endless Tides is Unbowed’s most recent and most ambitious output. With this release, the band found a way to naturally represent their wide array of inspirations; allowing them to manifest into a sound that is entirely and uniquely their own.”
After listening to the album, I found that the highlighted points above fully describe what I experienced: a sense of confusion and a lack of understanding in the science of mixing styles. On Bandcamp, the band is “Epic Metal”, in the press kit it’s “Symphonic Death Metal”, and in its similar artists recommendations, there’s Behemoth, Enslaved and Amorphis. Now that’s a wide array of inspirations, and I totally agree that it’s ambitious for one to create a sound, entirely unique, from this combination. Well why not you might say? Indeed anything is possible and creativity is always encouraged, however, the most highly renowned bands create a solid identity that one could refer to, such as “Opeth-like” or “Lamb of God-like”. However, I found that UNBOWED failed to create their base identity, but rather have created a strange application of distant Metal influences that are confusing and hardly work together.
One of the first things that come to my mind after listening to an album are: will I recommend it, how to describe it and how to hype it? If this album sounded more like Behemoth, it would be easier to recommend; Behemoth is Extreme Metal at its best, their sound is known and does not confuse. If they sounded more like Amorphis or Enslaved, that would also be easy, something Melodic and Nordic at the core. However, the songs have Black Metal blast beats with “Ihsahn-like” execution with basically a copy of Randy Blythe (Lamb of God vocalist)’s vocal style on top. Now that’s ambitious, especially when you add Symphonic keyboard lines and an inconsistency in keeping any of these moods running just to let the recipe meld and stew into a familiar sound for the listeners.
No advertising is bad advertising: UNBOWED is talented and has potential to release interesting albums if they remove a few influences from their sound and focus more on a couple of ones. The one example of what I liked in this album is Daughter of the Flood, which is one if not the album’s most Melodic song, with its anthem-like execution with not many (still there, but tolerable) transitions into other styles.
Check out album opener “Mountaincarver“:
Some songs like Stormblood and Sign of Slaughter (Ft. James Benson) start off strong with great riffs and a hint to oncoming Modern Metal, only to quickly find themselves in Black Metal territory without the essential Black Metal vocals which listeners could immediately associate with. To me this created a confusing effect and not a “unique sound” per say, although I have previously reviewed everything from Avant-Garde Metal to Prog, Death and even Progressive Black Metal on this site. A couple of other songs with potential are The Discordant Ascent of a Drowned God and Bleak Ululations, which lay the ground for good Extreme Metal songs. The weirdest ones on the album were placed last: Dreaming of the Deep with its strange mid-section buildup to a solo with cult-like vocals and Diluvian Embrace with its modern Hardcore Metal sound that is ruined by leaping into totally different Symphonic Black Metal grounds.
Sounds nice? Then you’ll live the band! Confused? We understand.