Every now and again we at AMG receive promo that defies genre classification. Out of those, one or two make us crazy trying to decide whether we even like it or not. This review marks the first time I get to experience said phenomenon firsthand. Black Passage, a “metalcore” quintet out of Bay Area, CA, are releasing their debut LP The Veil at the tail end of July. I’ve been listening to it for just over a week so far. How do I feel about it? Well, it’s complicated.
Black Passage doesn’t fit the general metalcore mold, but at the same time metalcore might be the only term that stands a decent chance of describing their sound. Expanded, the band utilizes grunge (specifically Alice in Chains), death metal (Fallujah and Within Destruction in particular), alternative rock/metal (Chevelle/Deftones) and melodic metal (think Great Leap Skyward). Each of these influences takes hold of one or two aspects of the compositions. The riffing is almost entirely based out of the melodic metal realm, with the few breakdowns present pulled from downtempo deathcore. Guitar leads take on personalities akin to the alternative school of rock and metal, and the clean vocals exude the same but with a grungy finish. The bass rumbles beneath, playing the support character to the tech-y drums. Lastly, the harsh vox are guttural and firmly set in the ways of deathcore.
On The Veil, Black Passage built songs upon relatively simple underpinnings such that all of these elements coalesce with moderate success, the end result bearing the strongest resemblance to early Fallujah. “Left to Waste” and “Lamenting Ghost” serve as strong examples of this smart infrastructure within which the band has arranged the music, but they also foreshadow the band’s biggest misstep. Utilizing similar templates throughout this record, presumably to minimize the chance of breaking cohesion between disparate styles, was a respectable move. However, this strategy also caused cuts to bleed into one another to the point that many of them are interchangeable (“Lamenting Ghost,” “In Place of Us,” “Depiction of Anguish”) or lack momentum (“Trapped,” “Bleed for You,” “The Broken Hand”). Occasionally the band gently breaks songs away from such strict guidelines—beefing up the tech-death on “Silent Home,” capitalizing on deathcore for “Bringer of Light,” and hybridizing melodic metal, grunge and brutal death to create the oddly fascinating “Tables Turn”—and in doing so they created more recognizable and engaging pieces.
Needless to say, The Veil works as well as it does due to the considerable talent populating the project. We have three members of Beyond the Desecration manning vocals (Julian Zidarevich), guitars (Kevin Wilson) and bass (Brian Mojica, also of Wolf King). Antisoptera‘s Robby Perry mans a second guitar, and as far as I can tell he performs as admirably as Kevin. Rounding out the lineup is Fallujah‘s Andrew Baird, taking his rightful place on the kit. Out of everyone present, Julian steals the show, impressing with a wide array of vocal approaches all competently delivered, though I do wish he injected more gusto into his cleans. Playing close second is Baird, whose performance here is dynamic as it is technical, expressive as it is intense. I might not have enjoyed much of his work in his main band’s latest, but with Black Passage he delivers exactly what the music needs at exactly the right time. Beautiful.
Like I said, my feelings towards Black Passage are torn. At times I love what the band is doing, blending ideas that should never meet. Then again, The Veil only scratched the surface. The potential here for an insane, genre-bending blunderbuss of an album is plentiful. Push the envelope a little more, mess with the song structures more freely, and make the end result feel dangerous. Do these things, and Black Passage might just take year-end lists by storm when album two drops.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Releases Worldwide: July 26th, 2019