Fleshbore – Embers Gathering Review

One of the only true perks in this gig, besides the callous hazing of my fellow writers and the mindless braying of the commentariat, is getting highly anticipated releases weeks in advance. When that happens, a swarm of reviewers pilfer the promo pit, greedily clutching the release like so many Gollums with the One Ring. If you’re the lucky reviewer actually covering said album (we hates them), it’s a boon, as you get peer reactions in real time. But for everyone else, it means it becomes that much harder to focus on the album you’ve actually chosen that week. This is especially unfair to the band you’re reviewing when the Big Release is the same genre. This week, Archspire‘s follow up to tech death masterpiece Relentless Mutation ran through the writers’ room like rancid chili. My own official assignment was Indianapolis, IN tech death newcomers Fleshbore‘s debut Embers Gathering. Did I, on several occasions, choose to spin the Big Release over my own charge? Yes. Did it help that one of the obvious touchstones of Fleshbore‘s sound is Archspire? No. But this is a review of Embers Gathering, not Bleed the Future, so let’s give these Midwestern boys a fair shake.

When I finally turned my full attention to Embers Gathering, I found a debut with several influences but a relatively confident, unified vision.1 This is certainly technical death metal, but it mostly avoids the bloodless, clinical exercises that can overwhelm the genre. There’s a strong commitment to melody both overt, as in the dual guitars adorning “The Scourge,” and subtle, noticeable just behind the drum blasts and rapid fire chugs a la The Black Dahlia Murder on songs like “Cynicism.” I’ve already mentioned the Archspire influence, which manifests in fast, elastic bass and guitar noodling and in Michael O’Hara’s occasional machine-gun vocal delivery. Some moments stray from influence to outright imitation, as on “Embers Gathering” or “Revivified.” I suppose it’s not surprising. Fleshbore formed in 2017, the same year those Canadian time travelers showed us the future on Relentless Mutation. Thankfully, there’s more to Embers Gathering than homage. One element that keeps things spicy is a tendency towards slam in the more aggressive moments and in O’Hara’s propensity to swerve into those signature slam pig burp vocals. I’m not generally a fan, mind you, but they’re used infrequently enough that they contribute some welcome variety.

Fleshbore are at their best when they allow the melody to break through the onslaught. There are blackened tremolos throughout the album, and the further forward they are, the more they elevate the material. They’re used to add urgency to the already blistering “Careless Preacher,” trading passages with stomping breakdowns, while on album highlight “The Scourge,” tremolo leads become the main event. Melodic touches sit just above the surface on the title track, and although it’s the most derivative material on the album, it’s also a strong song in its own right. The pattern of letting melody advance and recede across the album as a whole is successful partly because, like any sensible band peddling dense, fast material, Fleshbore have the good sense to keep the runtime at a trim 32 minutes.

And it’s a good thing too, since toward the end of Embers Gathering, things begin to unravel a bit and one gets the sense that any more material may expose a songwriting issue. Fleshbore have a diverse, aggressive sound, but that can only go so far. After a strong one-two punch of “Momentum” and “Careless Preacher,” “Cynicism” seems to rest on its laurels from a structural perspective. Nothing much distinguishing, but of a piece with the other material. This gets worse as “Revivified” and “One Thousand Hands” close things out. The shifts and progressions on both feel more arbitrary than on the previous tracks, giving them a sketched, or incomplete feel. The circular application of ideas that bolster “The Scourge” and “Careless Preacher” are absent as things wind down, and I find my mind wandering well before “One Thousand Hands” hits the halfway point.

So Embers Gathering starts strong, but ends not so much. The good news is, most of the songs here distinguish themselves nicely, the material feels cohesive and it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome. It’s a good album, and a debut the band should be proud of. That said, you better believe the moment I submit this review, I’m turning the lights down, lighting some candles, drawing a fragrant bubble bath strewn with rose petals, and listening to Bleed the Future.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Innerstrength Records
Websites: fleshbore.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/fleshbore
Releases Worldwide: August 13th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. Not to mention handsome cover art
« »