More cold, more -core. The chillier days and drearier weather settling in motivated my selection of this week’s review as I desired something which would hopefully boast catchy melodies and easy head-banging to compel a spring in my step on my morning commute. Germany’s metalcore troupe The Disaster Area stepped up to the plate with their innovatively-entitled sophomore full-length Alpha // Omega (A/O). Moreover, their one-sheet suggested that the record may “show [the listener] a way back into the light.” Bold words indeed and exactly what I required to put a little color back into the world on these gray mornings.
Full disclaimer up front: A/O boasts that modern tone which basically divides metalheads into those who enjoy “popular” metal and those who enjoy more underground or extreme stuff. If you’re an aficionado of the modern ilk of metalcore with hardcore-flecked vocals, djenting guitars, and mild electronic influences then you’ll likely get something from this record. While I like to consider myself open-minded, A/O arguably hits that mark too accurately; all of these elements rise to the fore on the opening track called “Deathwish” and remain throughout. It’s derivative of a million bands you’ve heard before, right down to urgent whispers rising into shouts on track introductions and faux orchestral elements layering over chugging guitars to accentuate epic moments.
More than simply derivative of other bands, A/O is also incredibly consistent in its sound. While it can be said to be a robust exploration of this particular stream of metal, there’s only so much of this stream to explore, resulting in significant repetition. The description of the music I’ve noted above can, for the most part, be applied across the record’s duration and its consistent verse-chorus structure. The sum is an album of 38 minutes — which is nominally a good duration — but one which actually drags, as songs blur into an indeterminate collage of tepid breakdowns, average riffs and electronic trinkets which can feel tacky. My attention sometimes wandered far afield while listening, which is exactly the opposite effect to that which I seek in immediate, melodic metalcore.
Only the titular tracks “Fade (Omega)” and “Reborn (Alpha)” differ slightly from the typical structure. They both open more slowly to generate atmosphere with subdued vocals and melodic guitars and consequently at least offer some variation from the stock style used. While on the subject of outlying tracks, “0800-111-0-111” violates my strict ‘no phone number track titles’ rule.1 But it’s by far the best and most engaging track, building atmosphere over its opening minute and achieving its first chorus which actually feels like a culmination of the song to that point. Elsewhere on the record, the verse-chorus structure simply feels like the band is going through the motions but here it feels like the listener has earned their melodic, shout-along reprieve and there was some real progression pursued.
Nonetheless, I can’t really recommend A/O. It’s far from outright bad and I’m struck with a sense of earnestness in the young band’s endeavors, but there’s so little to differentiate them from many other, better-established groups. It’s as average as they come and struggles to raise my blood, let alone get me banging my head. The one-sheet documents that The Disaster Area wrote this record with a loose dark/light concept influenced by recent highs and lows in the band members’ lives, but it’s only in the dichotomous title that I’m able to discern anything of this. In all? I’m turning to other records to invigorate my mornings.