Buried In Verona - Faceless - (7/10)
Published on March 18, 2014
Buried in guilty pleasure.
Sydney’s Buried In Verona have been flailing about in the lower ranks of the Australian metalcore scene for some time. Their last album, 2012’s Notorious, was somewhat of a commercial breakthrough for the band but also served to widen the divide between their growing fan base and the record’s critical response within the wider metal community, which – if its obnoxious cover art didn’t tip you off – was lukewarm at best.
With Faceless, Buried In Verona abandon Notorious’s, nu metal-drenched sound, reverting to the more Gothenburg-based style of 2010’s Saturday Night Sever – opening track “Eclipse” bursting forth from the speakers with an unprecedented and engrossing aggression that blows away everything the band have done up to this point through sheer aggression.
Buried In Verona have always come off as a poor man’s band-of-the moment and that impression endures on Faceless, with many of the earlier tracks taking obvious cues from undeservedly popular, nu deathcore act Emmure – both in their saturation of decidedly monotone, more-brootal-than-youz chugging and the tone and delivery of Brett Anderson, who plays the bad cop to, drummer-come-guitarist, Richie Newman’s good cop as far as Buried In Verona’s vocal arrangement goes. However, it’s a style that suits them far better than any of the copious others the band have tried out in their quest for notoriety.
Faceless’s ace in the hole is its destructive production, handled by Joey Sturgis – (one of few albums this year not produced by Fredrik Nordström) – who cut his teeth producing The Devil Wears Prada albums and whose recent credentials read like a list of last year’s most trite batch of fifth-or-whatever-we’re-up-to-these-days-wave metalcore (Blessthefall, Attilla, Asking Alexandria) along with the last couple of Emmure albums. Sturgis’s über-crisp, low-end-heavy production catapults Buried In Verona to a level they’ve never managed to – and perhaps don’t fundamentally deserve to – occupy before, but none the less stake a forceful claim to with Faceless.
(I would have liked to include a heavier track but Buried In Verona seem to be opting to only promote Faceless‘s softer moments)
Where Faithless threatens, rather precariously, to come undone is in Newman’s vocals, which crop up with reliable (read: predictable) frequency and, with very rare exception, are never a welcome addition. While phonetically fitting and not nearly as overproduced as you’d expect, there’s a stiffness to Newman’s delivery that renders them beyond flat and suggests that they were added more out of commercial contrivance rather than artistic compulsion, which estimation is formidably backed-up by lyrics themselves are of the most hackneyed stock imaginable. There are times when Newman’s addition makes sense, and even a few occasions where, if they don’t detract, they at least don’t hinder proceedings any, but on nearly all occasions they severely sap what momentum the rest of the band have worked so vigorously to build up.
This grievance is perfectly exemplified in, what is undoubtedly, the album’s low point, the beyond-contrived ballad “Set Me On Fire” – a track as vomit-inducingly sentimental as it is transparently artificial. Buried In Verona tried this stunt before on Notorious, with the equally horrendous “Lionheart,” but the effect of “Set Me On Fire” is severely worsened by merit of being surrounded on this occasion by music that is actually enjoyable, rather than by tracks of an equally nauseating quality. “Set Me On Fire’s” one redeeming quality is that it basically serves as a glorified intro to “The Damned” – one of Faceless’s strongest tracks.
Furthermore, Newman has a seeming obsession with, or otherwise overreliance on, the theme of fire. Besides the obvious offender discussed above, here’s a selection of some of Newman’s lyrical contributions to Faceless, from which examples lack of inspiration and reliance on cliché should be obvious:
“We are alive tonight and the fire’s burning bright;
So pick me up and breathe, sing for the moment.”
“Take me up, take me up higher (higher);
Free my world, leave it on fire (on fire).”
– “The Damned”
Ick, ick and double-ick.
However, Faceless (for the most part) overcomes its stock attitude and trite lyricism by being compellingly consistent in its powerful assault. Buried In Verona are very careful not to let the album’s energy ever drop low enough to allow the listener a chance to think too hard about what they’re hearing, and it’s hard not to be won over by the record’s sheer perseverance. Despite its intrinsic awfulness, the insertion of “Set Me On Fire” is perfectly timed to prevent fatigue setting in early and is immediately made up for by the album’s ferocious second half, which undoubtedly contains Faceless’s strongest material.
It is in Faceless’s later moments that Buried In Verona streamline their attack, taking on an impressive chug that, coupled with Anderson’s gain-drenched vocals, bears a solid resemblance to Boston beatdown kings Bury Your Dead, which invocation does Faceless no great disservice whatsoever. The late inclusion of “Blind Eyes,” a seeming lone relic brought over from Notorious that has Anderson rapping over a very Emmure-indebted riff, turns out – in its unprecedented context – to one of Faceless’s strongest moments, offering a late departure from the album’s effective but undoubtedly monotonous attack.
Faceless is by far the best thing Buried In Verona Have ever done. It’s clear from their cultivation of commercial appeal that Buried in Verona yearn for the kind of commercial breakthrough that Notorious almost was and Faceless might just be the record to deliver it to them. Even if Newman’s sections threaten to invalidate the other members’ contributions to weightlessness and the whole thing reeks of poorly disguised contrivance, the fact of the matter is that Faceless hits hard and does so more often than it pulls its punches.
The sheer energy of the songs on Faceless, coupled with Sturgis’s colossal production, prompts far more revisiting of the album than it perhaps inherently deserves but this doesn’t make it an any less pleasurable experience in the moment, although shaking the notion that it shouldn’t be is a whole different matter entirely.