Facedown's boot camp label Strike First Records has gained a promising new death metal group by way of As Hell Retreats that will likely shake things up for fans of anything outrageously heavy. After releasing an EP each year for the past four years, the Hendersonville, Tennessee five-piece has unleashed a downpour of demolition and unrestrained fervor in their debut full-length release, ironically titled Revival.
The "Intro" track sets the mood admirably, ransacking the immediate area with an incredibly destructive breakdown. Unfortunately though, "Inferior" opens with a short stacking of blast beats, which gave me an immediate first impression of repetitiveness that so many bands use to sound overly heavy. After this, however, the overall sound becomes much more diverse, specifically in the area of vocals, set down by Jackson Greene. They impress at a wide variety of levels from high, guttural screams similar to The Agony Scene and low death growls. Though not extraordinary, the guitars of Blake Hardman and Tyler Riley certainly play their part. Creativity is still present despite. A healthy sprinkling of squeals and high tone flourishes in between brutally heavy riffs and half-beat chugging keep the song very interesting.
The sound as a whole is very intense. It's probably one of the heaviest good bands in the Christian scene. Facedown is lucky to have them. In "The Holy Thief," while the music is woven together well, the drums alone are the weak point of the music. All of Trent Davenport's drumming is appropriate, but the performance is slightly less than par. At some points, it is clear there is some trouble with the timing. It's not immediately noticeable, but he would benefit from some more practice before the band's next recording.
The entire album follows a strong form that has been set by the band, which in itself deserves credit, as too many groups play inconsistently. The transitions from timing changes could also use some work, but again, this is only a minor problem. The short semi-solo in "Raze" fills in cleanly, but the drop from blast beats to otherwise is slightly rocky at times, making it hard to grasp the cohesion of the song. By "Resting With Closed Eyes," the album starts to sound a little too consistent, risking repetitiveness. For those of you who believe in the salvaging powers of a good breakdown though, each new song continues to satisfy. "Messengers" does more to spice up the flavour, adding in fun hooking riffs that don't usually appear in death metal. Times like the end of the track also showcase guitar skill that shows up too seldomly.
For a short break from the intimidating pizzazz of the previous songs, take a nap to the title track. It's your standard surprisingly flowery instrumental interlude that breaks down your hype so that "Poor God," the final track, sounds even heavier than it is. The fact that the album ends after such an inspired ninth song upsets me a little. Considering that As Hell Retreats has released four EPs before this, I would have expected a full-length album longer than 27 minutes.
Revival is a superbly written, face-breaking, volume-cranking monster, but the sound mix is less than professional and the band performance could use some improvement. With opportunity to tour with more experienced bands and time to knock up their skills a notch, As Hell Retreats will likely produce well-deserved praise in the future. And it was entertaining enough that the brief length disappointed me, so fans of Upon A Burning Body, Veil of Maya, or Salt the Wound should be thrilled that a group like this has entered the Christian metal mesh.- Review date: 5/23/10, written by Wayne Reimer of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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