Metalcore veterans A Plea For Purging have been around for a little while longer than most people know. Though Plea really started taking off with the release of 2009's Depravity, the Nashville-based act had released two EPs and a full-length album previously; said LP, A Critique of Mind and Thought, was Plea's true Facedown debut back in 2007, showcasing a distinctly different sound from their later work. While the band has met great success with a chaotic, Red-Chord-influenced sound that borders on deathcore on The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (and their latest release), A Critique of Mind and Thought brought a unique and fresh blend of shred and hardcore that stood squarely outside the box in a genre cluttered with easily categorized soundalike bands. Listening to this album along with the two releases that followed it makes it easier to understand what made Depravity the mixed-bag-at-best that it was; the gap between A Critique and The Marriage is a rather daunting one. As opposed to the grinding dissonance of The Marriage, A Critique is driven by melody, shredding riffs, sparse but well-placed breakdowns, and more melody. In the midst of a breakdown-saturated genre, finding sound comparisions for this album is tough. The closest one could get would be to imagine Underoath's Cries of the Past and For Today's Ekklesia in a Texas cage match with Dragonforce throwing bottles into the ring from the seats. Even with that in mind, this is still an album you can't really find a soundalike for, not even to this day.
At first, the breakdown that introduces "Sons of Vipers, How Will You Escape the Judgment of Hell" is certain to make the listener leery of an oncoming sludgy chug-fest similar to Depravity. However, once the searing leads make their first appearance, the ride is on. Sometimes it's one high-octave solo-sounding riff over driving rhythm guitar; other times, twin leads carry the weight over drum-and-bass breakdowns. Overall, the guitar work of Martin and Paschal is what really makes this album an adventure, with twisting melodies that sometimes tempt this listener into wanting to coin the term "power-core." However, as soon as one is ready to genre-fy the record as such, a song like "Perseverance" pops up. The highlight of the album, "Perseverance" strongly foreshadows Plea's new direction. The wild power-ish leads kick in as usual, only to plunge headlong into dissonance while still holding the character of the album; it's an unexpected, welcome kick in the pants, breaking up the melody temporarily to just get downright creepy. The rhythm section is solid on A Critique, with the bass backing up the leads in a high-octave manner that calls up Cries of the Past, while Aaron Eckermann kills it on the skins despite sounding like he borrowed For Today's drummer's kit that was used on Ekklesia. Overall, A Critique is a sonically fresh record that tastefully avoids overproduction. Like most albums, however, this record is not without flaws, however minor and nitpicky they may be.
I can dig Andy Atkins' vocals, don't get me wrong; they're dead-on amazing for hardcore music. However (and this might just be a personal taste), the roller-coaster-ride style of music present on this record really lends itself to a more varied vocal range than the general monotone growl offered by Andy; hearing Phil Bozeman of Whitechapel's guest spot on "Perseverance" really shows how a deeper or higher approach from time to time can help keep things interesting (though the "Dude-bro Choir" in "Everything and Nothing" is a wonderful departure from the standard high and whiny cleans in most cookie-cutter metalcore). Also, I know I've gone on and on about how good the guitars are on this disc, but sometimes, ironically, they can be too good. Whenever a guitar solo becomes apparent, the fact that it's on pretty much the same skill level as the riffs in the same song lessen its impact. Plus, if you're not really a fan of relentless hammer-ons or blistering shred in general, you'll likely find the riffs repetitive (though rarely recycled).
It's really too bad this record didn't get more press. As impressive as The Marriage of Heaven and Hell was, it's a shame that many people think Plea's history began with the hit-or-miss Depravity. So step into the Wayback Machine, set the dial for 2007, and witness one of the more creative and impressive chapters in this acclaimed band's relatively unexplored history.- Review date: 10/27/11, written by Steven Powless of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Facedown Records
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