These Colors Fade – Contemporary Tragedy Review

Dear Keelan Donahue,

Hello there! Hope you are enjoying the sunny weather in scenic California, and thank you for submitting Contemporary Tragedy, the second full-length (and third release) from your one-man post-hardcore outfit, These Colors Fade. Going from the supplied materials that accompanied your submission, Contemporary Tragedy took over 800 hours to write, perform, produce, and mix. That’s an impressive feat! More and more, we’re seeing talented one-person bands crop up out of the woodwork, going toe-to-toe with the heavyweights in contemporary metal music. With the costs of production and promotion starting to drop considerably, there’s never been an easier time to record, mix, and promote your music. Normally, I welcome such endeavors with open arms, as we could have another An Isolated Mind on our hands. But after spending some time with Contemporary Tragedy, well… let’s have a little chit-chat, shall we?

One thing that stands out to me is the description given in the album’s bio that Contemporary Tragedy “blurs the lines between progressive metal, avante garde, and abstract thought.” It’s a brilliantly lofty way of saying that nothing is in time, nor in tune, with each other. Opener “Contemporary Tragedy I: Our Last Breaths” showcases this factoid as a perfectly harmless keyboard melody is then, for whatever reason, smashed into pieces by badly mixed and performed guitars, bass, and drums, which all seem hellbent and determined to eliminate each other Royal Rumble-style before returning to said keyboards. A single out-of-place strummed electric guitar string hollowly rings out, signifying the end without once building up to anything. At that moment, I was hoping that things would turn out better.

Things did not turn out better. From immediate follow-up “Contemporary Tragedy II: Wax Reveries” on forward, it is a sharp downhill slalom, but with the added joy of breathy, out-of-tune vocals added to the mix. There’s no denying the passion on display, but cramming as many syllables as possible into a single poor, defenseless bar (“Contemporary Tragedy II: Wax Reveries”), screaming breathily for no reason (“Contemporary Tragedy III: Curtains Close”, “Of Salvation and Damnation”), and caterwauling like Pallbearer‘s Brett Campbell suffering from a severe case of both influenza and boredom (all of it) isn’t going to make the off-key, off-time, “progressive, avante garde” primordial soup of pain any better. In fact, the only part of the album that’s somewhat listenable is during the middle of “The Art of Burning a Memory,” where you happened to find a long-lost Disturbed riff, and threw it in without any context or warning. That’s the closest thing to coherent fluidity in terms of songwriting to be found throughout the entire album.

But the biggest tragedy to be found, however, is the mix. Drums are hopelessly buried beneath a horrific, victor-free war of attrition between tinny guitars and a bass that can’t follow along to the beat. Your vocals sit on top of everything, as do the keyboards. Speaking of those keyboards, somehow, during the middle of “A Cerulean Tomb,” at around the 2:09 mark, you managed to make keyboards painful. Never in my time as a writer or a music listener have keyboards ever been physically painful before, and for that, I’m actually impressed. But by the time “Contemporary Tragedy IV: Alternate Reveries,” which is an acoustic version of “Contemporary Tragedy II: Wax Reveries” that literally no one asked for, came to a complete stop, I was happy to be off of the musical equivalent of Mr. Bones’ Wild Ride. That said, I had to give it three more listens before formulating this letter to you, just to be fair.

And here’s where we’re at now, Keelan, and this is not going to be easy by a long shot. There’s no denying you’re an ambitious musician and producer. However, steps need to be taken. Vocal and music lessons can only help you. Listen to your favorite bands, and notice how they construct their songs. Pay attention to their flow and structure. Also pay attention to your own production and mixing, especially your volume control. Above all, if it takes you 800 hours to come up with something that sounds like this, take some more time to fine-tune, correct, tighten, and above all make your music actually listenable. That’s so incredibly important because, as it stands, Contemporary Tragedy is exactly that.

I wish you nothing but the best in your future endeavors.

Respectfully,

-G.

 


Rating: 0.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: thesecolorsfade.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/thesecolorsfade
Releases Worldwide: January 29th, 2021

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