To invent a new genre of your own isn’t necessarily what makes a band great. What does, on the other hand, is when you are able to animate a near-dead genre with your creative output. See what I did there? Invent, Animate are a progressive metalcore band from Port Neches in Texas, and their latest album Stillworld breathes a bit of new life into the scene the band committed themselves to. Not because it is some sort of masterpiece, mind you, but simply for the reason that it is refreshingly honest to itself and the listener alike.
From the first riff of “Indigo” onward, Stillworld ticks off close to every cliché metalcore has accumulated in the last 15 or so years. We have emphatic hardcore screams, guttural vocals, melodic tremolo-picked leads and massive breakdowns. There are even some atmospheric clean vocals in the background. So far, so formulaic. But the way Invent, Animate utilize and structure these tropes feels pleasantly fresh. The song has a nice flow to it, employing the loud/quiet-dynamics to their full potential. It’s a solid choice for an opening track.
Single “White Wolf” jumps at the unsuspecting listener in a chaotic flurry of rhythmic mayhem. It gets even more bewildering when the band pits this aggressive beginning directly against the catchy hook. There’s no denying the song writing skills involved in Stillworld, even though “White Wolf” is technically typical (progressive) metalcore fare once more. Still, I can’t help but at least appreciate it for what it does right. The individual parts interact well with each other, and the performance of Invent, Animate is spot-on. Sometimes it’s better to follow a well-crafted formula than to fail at excessive experimentation.
As well as the band members themselves, producers Will Putney and Randy LaBoeuf have brought all their expertise to the table to make Stillworld a satisfying experience for the auditor. Every instrument is clearly distinguishable and sits perfectly in the mix. Given that this isn’t the case with a lot of metalcore/djent releases today, especially when it comes to bass guitar and cymbals, this is no minor feat. There is also enough room for the vocal performance of front man Ben English to fit neatly atop the instrumentation and play off the established grooves. All in all, the production value is top notch. Invent, Animate and the respective producers surely have invested a lot of time into crafting and polishing Stillworld’s sound, and it shows.
“Solace,” a short instrumental, paves the way for “Dead Roots,” a crushing yet melodic juggernaut. An exasperated English screams his frustration and resistance into the ether, filling the listener’s head with analogies like ‘a shepherd without the sheep, a forest without the trees,’ which stand for the empty existence he strives to abjure. Positive messages are always welcome in this day and age. Towards the end, Invent, Animate weave a beautiful atmosphere into the existing riffs, giving the song more emotional depth than before.
The last song I’d like to mention is “Soul Sleep,” coincidentally Stillworld’s final track and by far the most melodic one. Hand-picked guitars mingle with a synthetic atmosphere in between the familiar assault of the downtuned guitars. Moments of absolute stillness fall in the wake of the abrasive riffing and an eager chorus before the epic finale, absorbing all “Soul Sleep” has to offer into a great sendoff. Every trick in Invent, Animate’s book is used in one fell swoop.
Trying to come up with a score for Stillworld was admittedly challenging for me. Much to their disadvantage, there is not much that sets Invent, Animate apart from their peers. The songs themselves are obviously well written and catchy, but ultimately too formulaic for my tastes. On the other hand, every minute of this record oozes the very blood, sweat and tears the band and everyone involved have invested into the making of what can easily be described as their best record so far. The passion and conviction displayed are almost tangible, which bestows a certain aura of honesty and sincerity to the songs so firmly rooted in an at times disingenuous and exploited genre. As it stands, Stillworld is a collection of above-average songs, created by four individuals fully committed to their chosen sound. Maybe they’ll find their unique voice along the way.
Favourite Tracks: “White Wolf,” “Soul Sleep,” “Indigo”
FFO: August Burns Red, Northlane, Erra