“Villainy and Virtue”: Mediocre metalcore

Reviewing a death-metal or hardcore album is not the easiest task in the world: it takes an active ear to both react to and decipher the sound. Very few critics will agree on every element because the music form is so abstract.

Dead to Fall’s metalcore (a combination of death-metal and hardcore) album “Villainy and Virture” is no exception. The guitar parts are all heavily distorted, the tempo is a roller coaster, and the vocals are all screamed.

Released by Victory Records and produced by Eric Rachel who has produced albums of Atreyu, Dillinger Escape Plan, and God Forbid, the sound quality is exceptional: the cymbals are crystal clear, not a note is off, and the balance is perfect.

Music listeners, be forewarned though: just because something is abstract and well-produced doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good.

The charm in the death-metal and hardcore scene is the fact that the music can break so many conventional ideas about how a song should sound and still end up with a better quality than a lot in the mainstream (and sometimes, ironically enough, can sell more records).

The attempt to create aesthetic value out of the anti-aesthetic is not for everyone, but there are few acts out more intriguing and progressive than some of the melodic-death-metal bands coming out of Scandinavia including Dimmu Borgir, At the Gates, Children of Bodom, In Flames, and my personal favorite Opeth.

Dead to Fall is not from Scandinavia – the band members are from the lovely state of New Jersey – but the music is heavily inspired by the Swedish Gothenburg style of metal. “Villainy and Virtue”, however, takes a slight deviation from that style to blend with the hardcore sound from its region.

What results is sophomoric metal, (appropriate because it is their second album.) The motifs are not memorable enough, the breakdowns feel out of place and very little is coalescing the sound together.

The rhythm tracks are a firm foundation alive with exceptional double bass drum parts, but what’s really disappointing is the vocals. Even death-metal growls and screams should blend well with the music, which is rarely the case with “Villainy and Virtue.”

The lyrics are not much better. The theme of “No one is perfect, so don’t pretend you are” targeted at the condescending nature of moral establishment seems profound when summed up at the end in the Epilogue: “A virtuous mind dreams what a wicked man does.” How they get there, on the other hand, is overdramatic and cynical to the point of advocating trusting one’s instincts even when they lead to the destruction of the self or other people. Not quite nu-metal but close.

An exception is the track “Blood of the Moon.” Both the imagery of the lyrics and structured nature of the music with a brilliant intro, outro and climax made me wonder if I still was listening to the same CD.

The rest of the tracks did not move me, and there’s only 10 of them total, covering just slightly more than 30 minutes making the album even more of a rip-off.

All in all, Villainy and Virtue is a mediocre metalcore album that is not structured enough to be a decent metal and not spontaneous enough to be decent hardcore. A good metalcore album should be both. It makes a nice tapestry for background music, but when it comes to showcasing, it falls short.

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