Billy Boy in Poison – Umbra Review

Over the years, I find it difficult to look into the promo bin and not find myself becoming jaded with the biographical fluffery that accompanies each and every album that we review. For every one (and usually just one) album that nonchalantly flips the entire genre we all love on its head, there are literally thousands of bands that lay claim to boundaries being pushed, subgenres being blended, and new ideas being brought forth in a storm of creative energy when, in reality, it’s just the same damn thing we’ve been fed over and over again. So, when Danish quintet Billy Boy in Poison proclaims that they’ve created “a unique take on death metal with a modern, razor-sharp sound and even some metalcore vibes,” my eyebrows furrow and my brain wonders if their third full-length, Umbra, can really live up to the massive hype they’ve propped themselves up with.

So let’s get this out of the way right now; this doesn’t just have “some metalcore vibes.” This is just straight-up metalcore, through and through. For those of you still reading, we can agree that metalcore, when done properly, can be an awesome, life-affirming thingUmbra, in stark comparison to the likes of Zao or Heaven Shall Burn, seems content with regurgitating a well-worn sound with precious little to add to the mix to liven things up, since it lacks the seething fire of the former, and the hooks and melodies of the latter. It’s one of the most “there” examples of a creatively exhausted genre I’ve heard in recent years.

Thankfully, it’s not all bad. Drummer Niclas Mortensen is a beast behind the kit, with tasteful flourishes, impressive fills, and frantic double-bass work elevating the music. Their call to wipe out racism in “Supremacy,” at least lyrically, is a great message to get behind, even if the actual lyrical delivery is handled with the same grace as the Kool-Aid Man entering someone’s home via the living room wall. The vocal interplay between Hjalte Bertelsen and Bleed From Within‘s Scott Kennedy on “Blinded” is at times playful. Also, on the rare occasion that they do actually play death metal, like on the blistering “Kissed By the Sun,” they exhibit some decent riffage and aggression. So, their hearts are all in the right places, and there aren’t bad performances by any of the band members. In fact, it’s all competent.

But I’ll be damned if I can recall most of it post-listen. Once you listen to opener “Lost It All,” you’ve pretty much heard what the majority of Umbra sounds like. It doesn’t help that literally every breakdown on here, and there are a ton of breakdowns on here, are all interchangeable open-string chugs. There are even bass drops and that ride-cymbal “TING!” that are all overplayed, overdone, and not at all the “new sounds” promised in their bio. It’s the same reconstituted formula that reminded me, of all things, of Aphyxion, but at least in Billy Boy in Poison‘s defense, they actually know what melody is. Sadly, that’s not enough to recommend this when there are so many other albums that sound exactly like Umbra.

I know it’s a gamble out there, especially when we’re still in the midst of a horrible pandemic that continues to morph, adapt, and generally fuck up each and every thing that we all love and hold dear. So when a band plugs through and tries to carve out some form of normalcy amongst the chaos, that’s to be commended and respected. But you can’t throw lofty claims out there about how “unique” your music is when it’s about as safe, clinical, and unadventurous as it gets, and Umbra fits all those things to a yawn-inducing, patience-testing T. Here’s hoping that next time, these promised “unique takes” will make a much-welcome and desperately-needed appearance.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Prime Collective
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: September 10th, 2021

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