No matter what path of life you decide to traverse, there will be one unquestionable truth that everyone, at some point of their lives, will discover on their own, and that is the soul-crushing pain that comes with the ending of a relationship. Plainly put, break-ups fucking suck. Whether it’s cutting ties with family, permanently distancing yourself from certain friends, or having your significant other rip your heart out of your chest, pour lighter fluid all over it, set it aflame, stomp it to the ground, and then giggle maniacally as he/she walks away, that queasy, bile-generating, heartburn-inducing, tear-flowing anguish you feel is akin to having a jellyfish thrown right at your heart. So you would figure that an album dedicated to a broken relationship would be excellent fodder for a metal band, yes? Israel’s Ferium is tackling that most touchy of subjects with their second full-length, Behind the Black Eyes. That poor, poor dude on the front cover…
“Aftermath” opens up with a distorted arpeggio, some moderately heavy drums, and the barked vocals of Tiran Ezra, and immediately becomes a breakdown-heavy recollection of early 2000’s American deathcore. Mind you, I don’t mind a little Job For a Cowboy or the occasional Suicide Silence, but both bands have since moved on from their more humble beginnings to expand and grow in more interesting directions, whereas Ferium plays it safe with open-E chugs, staccato kick drums, and deep growls that go deeper during breakdowns. At least Ezra varies his delivery a little bit, adding some much-needed variety when he hits a more mid-range scream.
The good news is that Ferium do pepper interesting ideas throughout Behind the Black Eyes. The technical-infused sweep section near the end of “Power is All That Matters” hints at what the band could achieve in the future. Instrumental “She Feels Like Home” is both beautiful in its melody and intriguing in its complicated rhythmic backbone. Closer “A Free Man” stands out not just because of its over-seven-minute length, but due to its atmosphere, clever build-up, and the more conservative sprinkling of breakdowns throughout. It’s little glimpses like these that will propel the band further along in the future. It also doesn’t hurt that the album sounds pretty good on a production level, considering the amount of heft given to the guitars and bass.
The bad news? The song placement isn’t the best. Unless you’re Russian Circles, it’s never a good idea to follow an instrumental (“She Feels Like Home”) with what is essentially another instrumental (the short speech “Seven Years of Seven Levels of Hell”), especially when the latter song is just a voice that says “She feels like home…” over and over again, with other voices adding little speeches here and there. But the biggest concern is the songwriting itself. With the exceptions above, this is paint-by-numbers early deathcore, but the talent is definitely there to move beyond that box into something far greater.
Ferium, with some work, can definitely hang with the best of them if they just keep at it. Sadly, for the amount of heartbreak that went into Behind the Black Eyes, it’s just as heartbreaking to have to say that they’re not quite where they want to be yet, and this album reflects that with the same clarity as the eyeballs of the rhino spearing that poor, poor dude on the front cover. Hold out for the next one.