Christian deathcore. Already, I can see before my very eyes visions of the trve cowering back to their antitheistic holes, cowed by what is sure to be the very antithesis of their aesthetics. It always struck me as odd that there so many Christian metalcore bands out there. After all, the genre is a combination of death metal and hardcore – genres not exactly known for their support of religion. My befuddlement notwithstanding, dedicated readers of this very website will know that Kronos fears neither God nor core, and I picked Waver out of the promo bin knowing full well what I was getting myself into.
God or no, deathcore is deathcore, and Unseen Faith launch into the genre right off the bat with a collection of choppy mosh riffs, muscular roars, and the occasional thrashy bit reminiscent of Thy Art is Murder, a song called “Lost World.” It’s not much in terms of memorability, but the tropey opener at least gets the momentum going, setting up the slightly better “Friend of the Devil.” Comparisons to modern deathcore’s frontrunners are easy to make here; “Friend of the Devil” and the following “Dystopia” play into the high-energy strike of strung-out leads against chuggy grooves that’s a favorite tool of Fit for an Autopsy and many a djent/deathcore bedroom project.
At times that’s what Waver reminds me of most. The year is 2010; 8-strings just got cheap enough that seventeen-year olds could ask their parents for one, and The Pirate Bay’s ProTools torrent is guzzling bandwidth across the world. I’m just beginning to wrap my head around ObZen and packing a nascent music library with the enticing unknowns in the guts of a cadre of .rar files1. HeavyBlogisHeavy fueled a prog-djent zeitgeist, and somewhere in Sweden Vildhjarta just discovered the concept of brutality. The back half of Waver is just one huge nostalgia trip, full of delay, meaningless rhythms, and bass breaks, taking me back to those strange days before I knew about Ulcerate.
It’s sometimes fun in the moment, but if I pay enough attention, it all snaps back into focus: the year is 2017, djent went up in flames and took most of deathcore with it, and I just don’t like this music anymore. The breakdowns, stomp riffs, the overly-crunchy-crisp guitar sound; they all became played out years ago, and Waver just doesn’t have anything else going on. On the whole, it is a painfully generic and uninspired take on a style that only ever got popular because it was so easy to reproduce. Its better moments, like the chorus of “Tree,” are swamped in uninteresting, chuggy boilerplate that’s utterly faceless, and its lyrics are just Christian rock tropes delivered in a mouthy tough-guy roar.
There are good ways to do deathcore, and there are good ways to incorporate faith into metal. Waver avoids all tried and true techniques for both, and unsurprisingly comes up very short in terms of quality. Perhaps listening to albums like this is the penitence I must pay for having found a perfect album in What Passes For Survival. If that’s the case, It was damn well worth it. What isn’t worth it is any time you spend listening to Waver. The trve had the right idea about this one.