When Metalcore oversaturated the market and started to evolve, I was shocked that more bands didn’t move towards the Modern sounding Thrash style. TRIVIUM made it work and became an international phenomenon, so I was shocked that more didn’t follow suit. Which was perhaps the biggest surprise I had when I listened to CALLOUS’ debut effort “Descension”. It was a band that followed that path towards a Thrash inspired evolution of Metalcore. Not many are doing it anymore that’s for sure.
Besides the obvious comparisons that could be made to TRIVIUM (there are a lot and considering that on their MySpace CALLOUS calls the previous band one of their main influences then it makes absolute sense), CALLOUS play a style not heard very often any more. Thusly, making them stand out in the crowd where more often then not the influence is pulled from Death and not Thrash anymore.
CALLOUS incorporates the Thrash nicely into their music, mixing it with a lot of Modern Metal elements and just a hint of Metalcore to their writing to give it variation. At first, I thought I was going to be listening to a straight Metalcore album as the opening song “Suffer The Sea” is very reminiscent of KILLSWITCH ENGAGE in its slow plodding mid tempo ballad-esque structuring, but quickly after that song the band incorporates their Thrash background into the mix with modern Thrash riffing and some Thrash styled drum work. There is a significant Metalcore influence in the writing though and breakdowns are a big part of their writing like on the songs “See No Evil” or “Through These Final Hours”, but its combined with the Neo Thrash sound in a pretty balanced way.
I have odd feelings on the vocals for this record though and it’s perhaps the album’s biggest misstep. There are some great group chants (as a Thrash fan I appreciate that) and the combination of shouted growls and singing does strike a good combination that could really sell these guys in the future. But the delivery needs a bit of work. The growls could even be a bit more ferocious and the singing is layered to the point that it sounds like choirs instead of this solid chorus. None of the vocal work is bad, but it feels as though it’s held back. The modern production doesn’t help a whole lot with this, but I really wanted the vocalist to come out and let it rip but instead we get some vocals that tend to sound pulled out. There is potential in its use, but it could have been done even better.
All in all, CALLOUS makes a splash. It helps too to have a rather short album to test the waters a bit and not throw too much filler in which is one of the saving features of “Descension”. It’s a solid Modern Thrash album with lots of Metalcore features like TRIVIUM made popular, but some vocal work and lots of production issues make this one just an occasional listen for the average Metalhead.
Songs to check out: “See No Evil”, “Nothing Left To Say”.
(Online July 3, 2009)