The 2013 Arsies: January 9, 2013

January 9, 2013

Today, we have two bands putting forth the finest hours of their careers. Let's start the action with The Faceless, and their third album Autotheism. This release is split neatly in half, starting with a three-song Autotheist Movements suite, and ending with a handful of individual but related songs. Having the album start with the suite was an odd choice — typically, these things are sandwiched on either side by songs, or else put off until the back half of an album. The end result is the feeling that you've got two EPs here, rather than a cohesive whole. The suite has a surprising symphonic elegance to it, tempered by some out-of-nowhere speed metal, and soulful leads to boot. This is as much Opeth as it is recent tourmates Between The Buried And Me, and it's fantastic. And yet, the latter half of is every bit as compelling as the suite. In fact, you get a better sense of what The Faceless is all about with tracks like Accelerated Evolution than the suite. The result is proggy, thrashy, lofty, and enjoyable, if at times slippery and hard to pin down.
On the other hand, you have Katatonia's ninth album Dead End Kings. There's no lack of balance, no confusion, no split personality, just a polished, consistent, and gorgeous record. I can't say enough nice things about it any time I insistently chat it up to my non-metalhead friends. And therein lies the rub. The hardest track on the whole record, Buildings, which gets to a Kings-X level of aggression. The rest of the time, Katatonia seems to be content with their formula of Grammis-friendly restraint. Dead End Kings works brilliantly within its own context, and is the apex of latter-day Katatonia's career, but it still withers under comparison. And so I find myself in the sad position of having to pass over an album I really like, in the face of overwhelming firepower. Nice work, The Faceless! You crushed the competition today, and go on to face a djenty foe in two weeks.
We are now halfway through the first round of the Arsies! Thanks for hanging in there with me so far. Tomorrow, we head to Europe, and decide who's better: Gojira or Enslaved.

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