"Planetary Duality"

(Sumerian Records 2008)Faceless - Planetary Duality

You, as a musician, are not as good as the guys in the Faceless. I don’t care who you are, this Los Angeles technical death metal outfit blows your doors off. While you’re in your room fumbling through modes and nailing every riff on “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath,” guitarists Michael Keene and Steve Jones are unleashing hellish guitar fury capable of turning your speakers into pathetic lumps of charred plastic. And drums? You can only pray to someday mimic the leg-numbing double bass, gut punching blasts, and twenty-armed fills that Lyle Cooper peels through constantly. Blowing your brain out of your ears with complexity is what the Faceless do, and they do it well.

“Planetary Duality,” the band’s second full-length, ostensibly tells the story of extra-dimensional beings infiltrating our world and ushering in the apocalypse or something. But whatever, the album could be about kittens or falafel; it wouldn’t matter because the music is so damn good. Well, that and Derek Rydquist’s growls are undecipherable to begin with. This is tech-death, so you know there’s going to be the usual showing off of instrumental mastery. But the Faceless avoid a pitfall that many similar bands fall into, which is stringing a bunch of unrelated guitar parts together with song breaks thrown in at random. “Planetary Duality” contains actual songs, not half thought-out excuses to wow listeners with advanced musical theory. The Faceless, along with bands such as Origin and Obscura, represent a new breed of death dealers that understand the need to reconcile unrestrained technicality with the hallmarks of more traditional music: structure, hooks, and (gasp!) catchiness.

The music is executed flawlessly, but a few questionable creative choices are lurking about. There are some lines of clean-sung vocals that, while in and of themselves aren’t so bad, are used too infrequently and end up sounding jarringly out of place. And there’s “Shape Shifters” and “Legion of the Serpent,” which contain puzzling instrumental passages that sound like something out of a county carnival. Better those kinds of missteps, though, than extra non sequitur sweep picking. Don’t get me wrong, there’s sweep picking flying all over the place on “Planetary Duality,” but it has its place and purpose. Because the Faceless can do that kind of thing. You can’t.


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