Four years ago, xDEATHSTARx released their sophomore album, The Triumph, on a record label called Life Sentence. The band is now with underground hardcore label Facedown Records, with whom they released 2007's We Are The Threat. And this year, the band and label decided that the fans weren't getting enough of their xDEATHSTARx, and are re-releasing The Triumph. It has all ten songs on the original recording - in a different order, of course - as well as revamped artwork.
One thing about these guys that is unique for a hardcore band is that they have three vocalists. Lots of other hardcore bands give ample room in their songs for all the guitarists and the drummer to throw in some gang vocals, but xDEATHSTARx goes the extra mile and has three guys that just stick to vocals. The problem? You usually can't tell. I listened to the entire album all the way through, and I only found out about the three vocalists when I looked up their profile on Facedown's website. Multiple vocalists can be a wonderful thing for a band, but not when they all sound identical to each other. It worked so well for bands like Showbread and Taking Back Sunday (both of whom had dual vocalists as they reached their popularity), and one reason it worked so well was that you could tell the vocalists apart. Granted, after more listens, the different vocals did start to become more noticeable (as in "Scars"), but a lot of the time, they can easily be mistaken for gang vocals. It's cool that all three of the guys have an outlet in the band to speak their minds and ignite what I'm sure is an energetic crowd, just don't expect it to enhance the sound at all.
As is the norm in releases from Facedown, The Triumph's sound quality isn't exactly up to par with some other contenders in the hardcore genre. Though I doubt that xDEATHSTARx is trying to compete with other bands, it's still obvious that the sound quality on this album could've been better after 2008 has produced some great hardcore albums like Norma Jean's The Anti-Mother and I Am Terrified's self-titled EP. Even with the quality aside, The Triumph still doesn't make for that great of a hardcore release. There are times where the guitars and drums sound great (like the intro of the aforementioned "Scars," which is actually one of the better songs on the album), but mostly it's just repetitive throughout all of the songs. The vocals also sound sloppy a lot of the time, especially in the straight edge-themed "Die To Remain." Another example is parts of album closer, "Red Asphalt," though it's kind of an iffy example. The parts I'm referring to are when they use the typical, ultra-fast bam-bam-bam assault on the snare drum, which makes an opening for the vocalist to just - for lack of a better word - bark the lyrics in time with the snare drum. While technically it is completely organized, it still sounds a tad sloppy (and to be honest, I really always thought it did, regardless of which band it was).
Albums like this are hard to review. On the one hand, xDEATHSTARx is very talented. For the most part, it's a lot of the same recycled hardcore riffs with fierce drums and vocals that just seem angry more than anything else (and sometimes that's exactly what they are). But they perform those very things very well. Playing an instrument isn't easy, especially in a hardcore or thrash atmosphere, so I have to give them props for that. On the other hand, the hardcore "call to arms" type anthems usually - not always, but usually - come off as slightly cheesy, and The Triumph has plenty of those songs. Add to that the seemingly hopeless Facedown recording quality and the repetition, and The Triumph just barely makes it a little bit past the mediocre mark. For diehard fans of the underground hardcore scene (Hatebreed, Throwdown, Wrench In The Works, etc.), check this one out, and make it to their show. Everyone else, feel free, but you'll find better ear candy elsewhere.- Review date: 12/24/08, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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