Citing likenesses to Isis, Converge and Tool, Indianapolis’s Burn The Army drew me with its promo blurb promising technical and progressive post-metal. Someone notify The Official Metal Categorisation Agency™ because it’s taken twenty years, but technical and progressive post-metal has officially been redefined! Unfortunately, what you’ll find on The Tide to Sink the Summit, their first EP, is fantastically average metalcore. Though the occasional Mastodontic riff and atmospheric interlude will draw you away from complete indifference, there’s little here to seriously hold your interest, and these guys will have to fulfil their hollow promo promise to draw a label for their planned first LP.
The opening is actually quite engaging, however, and indicates that the future may hold good things for Burn The Army. The slow and atmosphere-building start to “Sky” is the closest thing to ‘post-metal’ on the EP, with the gradual breaking of a storm into a strong, bass-heavy riff. Similarly, third track “And” (worst song title ever), is a highlight, featuring a break-down of their core sound, in a more evocative and measured environment. The quieter, more controlled aspects of the EP are far more pleasing than the mostly forgettable metalcore parts, with layered instruments and greater attention to the song-writing. Additionally, the moments when more mathcore-y riffs are used certainly make for a more memorable listen, and demonstrate that these cats can play: a strong Mastodon influence can be heard at 5:40 of “Sky” for example. That said, these riffs and transitions act as punctuations to the majority metalcore blur, so cannot really elevate the music.
The principle issue here is the bland song-writing. Being that it’s metalcore and therefore tries to draw the listener with its melodies and vocals, it’s trouble when neither of these stick. Aside from the mathcore aspects, the guitar lines are not hooky and The Tide to Sink the Summit will mostly wash over you, leaving no prevailing image or sensation. Likewise, the vocals aren’t bad, but come off as a dispassionate and passive version of Joe Duplantier from Gojira. There’s a distinct lack of personality in the core of their sound: aside from the interlude “And,” you will reach the end of the EP without feeling any reason to re-listen, without having heard anything which will grab you. This sensation isn’t helped by the fact that “Sky” and “Sea” are both about four minutes too long, so my attention was wandering despite my best intentions.
I can appreciate why Burn The Army drew allusions to Converge, with a slightly more technical approach to metalcore, but Converge were innovative twenty years ago. Furthermore, do not be deceived by their claims of being influenced by Tool and Isis. The Tide to Sink the Summit does not feature the originality or groove symptomatic of Tool, nor the complex layering and textures of the truly post-metal Isis. A few steps further down the technical route would do the band good, helping to distinguish their sound, and expansion of their quieter and more evocative moments would bolster their atmospheric qualities and diversify their work. There is potential here, but for the moment, I can’t really recommend Burn The Army above other metalcore or mathcore artists.