It’s been pretty interesting to watch metalcore’s evolution over the years. I’m talking specifically about the strain of metalcore that cropped up in the early 2000s, the good cop/bad cop style played by the Killswitch Engages and As I Lay Dyings of the world, the type that infused At the Gates riffs with choruses cribbed from the latest alt-rock band. I ate that shit up in high school and stayed for the party when the style started adopting faster and more technical playing (see: August Burns Red and Texas in July).1 When djent had its heyminute in the early 2010s, bands realized chugs weren’t too different from breakdowns and thus began to add some djentiness to the proceedings (see: This or the Apocalypse‘s Dead Years and Hollow). The palette has been laid out and thus Finnish quintet Countless Goodbyes had quite a lot of paint and glitter to choose from with their Cycles debut. I wouldn’t say they do the best job with it, but what did you expect from a metalcore band called Countless Goodbyes?
Probably not something quite this heavy. Goodbyes build most of these ten tracks from rapid chugs and fast technical riffs that call to mind August Burns Red, a far cry from the post-hardcore flirtations I expected given the band name. Early highlights “The Fallen,” “Butterfly Effect,” and “Faith in Me” showcase the guitarists working at their best with bouncy, complex riffs that I can’t help but bob my head along with. It’s slick and catchy shit with a bit of djenty flair in the rhythms and some big epic melodies as is a statutory requirement for this style. Later songs like “Are You With Me” and “No Escape” call back to earlier in the metalcore canon with some melodic death metal riffs of the sort that early Bullet for my Valentine would have used just as readily.
Sadly other than the guitars, there’s little that excites me about Cycles. The harsh vocals are stock angsty screams while the clean vocals possess a slightly nasally inflection that I find hard to love. It doesn’t help that none of the cleanly sung choruses are particularly memorable (and the ones I do remember aren’t ones I’m particularly enamored with). Nonetheless, the songwriting here is actually pretty unique. Rather than relying on the standard verse-chorus template, often the only repeated parts of the songs are the choruses themselves, with different riffs and tempos employed in between. While this does make the songs more complex, it also prevents them from being as direct as they could be and at times makes them feel a little messy.
My complaints don’t end there. After the first three songs, it seems a lot of these tracks slow their tempos and rely on more of those Big Epic Melodies that just start to sound tired after a while. Despite listening to this album many times, there are still songs that I can’t remember a single idea from (“Memories Left Behind” and “Who We Are”). Likewise, “Hourglass” feels like a pretty lame way to close the album as it ends uneventfully without tying anything together. The production is stock modern metal but at least keeps things suitably clear and loud. Several songs also feature piano, what sound like synths, and of course, some tender clean picking to really evoke those deep emotions you felt back in high school when you were pining over that cute girl in your social studies class.
I don’t hate metalcore and I don’t hate Cycles. In fact, I’m of the opinion that almost every genre has the potential to produce a great album. Countless Goodbyes possess some talented musicians and are clearly astute protégés of metalcore in all its forms. Sadly they don’t do enough to excite me or set themselves apart. If you really loved last year’s Drowning in You album or are someone who still eagerly devours modern metalcore, by all means, take the plunge. For everyone else, Cycles is merely another example of an oft-derided genre that could be exciting but often falls short when it comes to fresh ideas and execution. I still wish the band all the best, but this is not something that resonates with me and I suspect that’ll also be the case for most readers of this site.