After releasing two records in only a year, Within The Ruins took their time to come up with new material this time around, a decision that truly paid off. Don’t worry, they still sound like Within The Ruins. But alas, some things did change…
The biggest change found on Phenomena might be the use of clean vocals. And how does it fit the music? Phenomenally, as it turns out! Bassist Paolo Galang stepped up to sing on those tracks, and hearing him on songs like “Death Of A Rockstar” or “Beautiful Agony” is quite convincing. Imagine how those cleans would fit into their old songs (just think about “Feeding Frenzy”). Makes you curious, doesn’t it? The music of Within The Ruins really profits of the clean, melodic vocals in the choruses. Halfway Human also features a lot of Joe Cocchi’s impressive guitar soloing, which indeed is intriguing over and over again (see for example “Death Of A Rockstar”).
Fans of the band might have recognized that there is a song called “Ataxia IV” on Halfway Human. If you are not familiar with Within The Ruins, they had songs called “Ataxia I-III” on their previous records; these instrumentals were all based on the very first version off of Creature from 2009. They kind of connect the different records as a golden thread, and fans of the band already recognized the pattern for sure. The reason for that is that “Ataxia” is not really a multi-part song, but rather a constant variation of the first, original one; there are always reprises of certain melodies and harmonies. So “Ataxia” sounds similar each time around, but never quite the same. In fact, one can see a clear progression within these tracks, and “Ataxia IV” might be the most overwhelming one yet!
Another interesting part is to be found in “Imperfect Harmony”, which transists into a offbeat reggae part that somehow has a very Born Of Osiris-y vibe too. This is something that would also fit bands like August Burns Red with their polka parts, and stands out in the basic concept of Halfway Human due to the fact that this passage might actually make some people want to dance! We are not talking about moshing or a circle pit here, either, more about dancing properly.
“Sky Splitter”, a song that deals with a friend’s death, is ripe with a yet unknown emotionality and a passion completely new for Within The Ruins. This emotional vibe especially comes out in the song’s chorus, as the rest of it is still heavy and driving. Melodic, groovy and catchy, with a mood similar to After The Burials‘ “Pendulum” or “To Carry You Away” (both off 2010’s In Dreams), this song works on a whole new level for the band.
To be honest, Halfway Humans is 100% Within The Ruins. They keep on releasing music on a very high level, always solid, never boring. In fact, their music might sound a little repetitive over time; similar song structures, a lot of melodic work and heavy grooves always signified the band’s sound. Back in the day, Within The Ruins seemed to be a band operating in between what Born Of Osiris and Veil Of Maya did. But now, in 2017, they are something else: themselves. With Halfway Human, they finally shaped their very own, original and fully convincing sound.
While songs like “Ivory Tower” create intrigue through speedy riffing, the closing track “Treadstone” provides a stomping groove and melodic metalcore riffing. Within The Ruins know how to use their instruments and display their full ability on this record, just like they did in the past. The main problem with Halfway Human is the lack of diversity, which might sound dumb, given that there is, in fact, some diversity. But all things considered, it all just sounds typically Within The Ruins. Which isn’t a bad thing per se, mind you; the band constantly progressed and now got to the next level by introducing clean vocals. The exciting songwriting and technical skills make Halfway Human a very solid record, but it severely lacks more diversity, more experimentation, like going totally clean for one song, for example, or adding more orchestration.
IN A NUTSHELL
Halfway Human is still a great record that is pure fun to listen to. It might not be the most innovative work out there, but if you are into melodic heavy music, beautifully sung choruses and a hearty portion of groove, you will love it nonetheless! Music aside, the record also comes with a 18 page booklet, nine of which are actually the cover art as a little poster. A nice idea that makes this physical digipack kinda special. This is probably something that you’ll want to have in your own collection!
Notable Tracks: “Beautiful Agony“; “Sky Splitter“; “Ataxia IV“
FFO: Born Of Osiris, Veil Of Maya, After The Burial
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