Album: Depravity’s Demise
Release Date: 12.26.14
Reviewer: Lee Brown
- Standing in the Air
- Becoming What You Are
- Plotting in Vain
- Self Destructing
- Dum Vita Est Spes Est
- Dispelling Illusions
- Shouting in a Vacuum
- Following the Light
- Permeating Reality
- Instrumental – Raw
- Calling Down the Sky
Back in 2011 Becoming the Archetype released what is arguably one of the greatest albums in the history of heavy music. Celestial Completion brought a blend of melodic technical death metal that wore European and even neo-gothic influences on its sleeve. Prior to their follow up album I Am… lead singer Jason Wisdom amicably parted ways with the band. Fast forward two years and Alex Kenis (also formerly from BTA) would recruit Jason Wisdom and Travis Turner (former Aletheian/Crutch) to form a new band influenced by and very similar in many respects to what made Celestial Completion such a memorable experience.
Solamors, like BTA before it, brings a melodic death metal sound frequently featuring many of the technical flourishes and neo-gothic/European influences Kenis and Wisdom brought to BTA. Since Wisdom is once again on vocals it is hard not to hear BTA shining through. Yet, Solamors is not just a rehash of former glory. Though it is easy to point to (and I will) areas of “Depravity’s Demise” that echo some of the styling of Celestial Completion and Dichotomy, Solamors is not a copy/paste of the past. It is an evolution of what made BTA great in Widsom/Kenis’ time mixed with sounds and stylings that also bring to mind bands like Demon Hunter or even Extol.
Still, fans will not be able to help noticing certain points of similarity. Though the album begins its first half more closely akin to Demon Hunter in style, the latter half feels like a welcome continuation of many of the themes and stylings of Celestial Completion. This works both in the album’s favor and cuts against it in small ways. To the album’s credit, we are presented with a continuation of one of the best heavy albums of all time. However, this natural comparison works slightly against the album’s favor when a direct comparison is evoked. Though “Depravity’s Demise” is a fantastic first album from an amazing “new” band, it also bears the baggage of former glory on it’s back.
“Depravity’s Demise” follows similar thematic elements to those found in Celestial Completion. The term “depravity” refers to the doctrine of (total) depravity, which states that in our natural state, we are sinful creatures that are unable to come before God on our own. In this, “Depravity’s Demise” points to the glorious day when God Himself removes the stain of sin and guilt and restores a right heart into His beloved creation, not because of our own merit, but because of His great love. Just as Celestial Completion focused on the time when God will make all right in the world and bring everything to its completion, Depravity’s Demise hits a similar, though varied, theme on the head.
The album starts with “Standing in the Air,” which masterfully begins with this neo-gothic airy feeling that was common of Celestial, before breaking into more Dichotomy-esqe fry screaming and chugging guitars. By the chorus of the song, however, the style shifts to where it sounds a bit like Demon Hunter (circa The Tryptic or Storm the Gates of Hell) before breaking back into the chanting/screaming pattern again. Whatever style one happens to peg for Solamors in their first impression, the one thing that stands out the most is how great it is to have Wisdom’s amazing voice breaking through your eardrums again.
Thematically, “Standing in the Air” speaks to the “misdirection” attacking our minds from all sides. This theme is embellished on a bit in “Becoming What You Are,” which focuses on the fact that our brokenness leads us to become what we, in our sin nature apart from Christ’s help, already were. “Becoming What You Are” eschews the more neo-gothic and etherial soundscapes for a more brutal double-bass heavy track with brutal vocals throughout.
“Plotting in Vain” continues the dark themes established in the first two tracks, though it once again becomes more eschatological as it speaks of the armies of the world who have risen against the army of the Lord and, therefore, plotted their own demise. Lyrically, “Plotting in Vain” is as powerful as anything Wisdom has crooned in the past as he screams,”They are powerless to undo what has already been done. They have gathered for eternal isolation. And raised swords to bring about their own final devastation.” The clean vocals on the chorus are a welcome addition to the song as they bring a unique flare that sets “Plotting in Vain” apart among the initial tracks.
“Self Destructing” continues these “plot threads” as it reminds the listener of the effect of depravity and its self destructive nature. “There’s no anticipation of regeneration, without otherworldly intervention.” Thus, apart from Christ there is no hope for breaking the hold of depravity on our very nature. Musically, we are once again presented with a nicely heavy melodic death metal track that features some great guitar work (with an especially nice solo around the 2:45 mark).
“Dum Vita Est Spec Est” is one of two instrumental tracks found on Depravity’s Demise. Though I will not comment much on the track (it is enjoyable), I will say that it serves to give a bit of distinction between the first part of the album (the tracks before it), which focus on the effects of depravity and its raging against the Holy One, and the second half of the album which more clearly focuses on victory.
“Dispelling Illusions” picks things back up with one of the heaviest and fastest tracks on the album. As Wisdom screams, “witness a change occurring, the reversal of planetary motion,” so goes the thematic reversal towards the hope and victory which can only be found in Christ. As mentioned, the latter portion of the album also carries more direct comparisons to Celestial Completion as the album moves on. The line “reversal of planetary motion” and the amazing neo-gothic chanting are callbacks to that album in a big way.
“Shouting in a Vacuum” most closely evokes comparisons to Demon Hunter for me than any other track. The switch between clean singing and brutal screaming is handled in a way that (in no track more so other than “Standing in the Air”) reminded me of Ryan Clark’s signature style mixed with Jason’s own. Theologically, the track has an amazing image of how hard it is to let go of our inborn sin. “Make no mistake, letting go is like death… it’s like choking on your last breath.”
From a more Demon Hunter meets BTA track, “Following the Light” returns to a beautifully neo-gothic track complete with haunting chants and almost sinister spoken words beckoning the listener to embrace the “descent” before breaking into the air of truth with “follow this thread of light. It is your only way out.” “Following the Light’ is really a highlight track and one that stands out, even from the great songs that surround it. Once again we are also treated to a strong guitar solo in the midst of the haunting chants.
If this album is a three act piece, then “Permeating Reality” could be considered a second dividing point (along with the instrumental that follows it). The song focuses on the fact that “there is more to life than what we can see, an invisible dimension of reality.” As Celestial Completion was so prone to do in tracks like “Breathing Light,” so “Permeating Reality” so beautifully focuses on the hope of heaven. Once again strained clean vocals offset Wisdom’s fry screams and work together to paint a powerful picture of a world we have only seen the faintest glimpse of.
Following a rather lengthy instrumental track (8:11 long), the harrowing conclusion is presented in “Calling Down the Sky,” which evokes its ties to that same BTA album I’ve mentioned numerous times, more than any other. The theme of the heavens and earth coming to their conclusion as “we bear witness… (to) the rising smoke of His final breath… the earth is silent and there’s an end to violence.” As a concluding track, “Calling Down the Sky” accomplishes everything it should. Thematically, it closes out the problem of depravity introduced in the first movement of the album while also fulfilling the album’s title and tying up the threads that other tracks introduce. Musically, it brings a fitting end to the style and power presented while, itself, bringing one of the more powerful adventures found on the album.
Musicianship: Both the drums and guitar work are solid throughout. Kenis’ past in Becoming the Archetype really shows through the stylings, but his guitar solos venture into some new territory. Overall, Depravity’s Demise would be a wonderful sonic experience without any vocals layered over them and, although I skimmed through the instrumental tracks in this review, you will not want to when listening.
Lyrics/Spiritual Content: Like Celestial Completion before it, Depravity’s Demise is a wonderfully powerful theological treatise. This album focuses on the problem of inborn sin while slowly unfolding the only solution capable of reversing the tide (both cosmically and personally) in Christ’s glorious return. The lyrics are above par in every realm and present a nice flow from start to finish.
Lasting Value: If you were ever a fan of Becoming the Archetype, there is really no excuse for skipping this album. Kenis and Wisdom (not to leave Turner out, though I am unfamiliar with Aletheian) have produced an album that builds on their BTA past while still exploring a little into what it means to be Solamors. Still, the obvious connections to BTA’s past work may leave some with an excuse to pass this album by.
Overall: Although Becoming the Archetype have produced a pretty solid album with their new lead singer, there is something inside that just clamors for Jason Wisdom’s touch. If you feel that void in your life, Solamors is the answer. Comprised of two of BTA’s former members (singer and guitarist), Solamors brings a sound that blends a heavy dose of Celestial Completion together with Dichotomy and just a dash of something closer to Demon Hunter’s style. It is a melodic death metal album that builds on the etherial soundscapes and neo-gothical elements of Celestial while still beginning to forge a new path and identity for the band. Though the album does at times sound a little too close to what Kenis and Wisdom have since left behind, Depravity’s Demise is a great album with a great theological message that should bring new fans clamoring in and leave current fans grasping for more.
RIYL: Becoming the Archetype, Demon Hunter, Aletheian, Crutch, Extol