REVIEW: THE FACELESS – “In Becoming a Ghost”
The Faceless have returned! Five years after the release of ‘Autotheism’, Michael Keene is back with a new lineup behind him. Now a part of The Faceless, is guitar wizard, Justin McKinney of the Zenith Passage, Ken ‘Sorceron’ Bergeron of Abigail Williams, and Chason Westmoreland of Burning the Masses. With such a power-packed lineup, hopes are high for their new record, ‘In Becoming a Ghost’.
Keene’s sound and style have certainly changed after working as a one-man riff and production factory for Sumerian Records. With ‘Planetary Duality’ still holding up as a mainstay in the technical death metal world, there seems to be a growing divide between fans. As the band has grown away from their base, fans are either digging in and sticking with the older material, while a new generation of fans emerge for the newer material.
Things are certainly different this time around, as the album opens with the title track, “In Becoming a Ghost.” It’s an interesting spoken word intro that sets up the following track, “Digging the Grave” well. Right out the gate, I’m hooked on the opening riff of the album. It’s heavy, dissonant, and chaotic, which are all my favorite things. About halfway through, things slow down and Keene breaks through with some clean vocals. The cleans always add a different texture to the sound as it gives you a break from the harsher vocals of Sorceron. There is a fucking flute solo on this track that you will not be prepared for. I think I missed the mentioning of guest star Ron Burgundy, but either way, it’s definitely different and not something I was expecting. I give them credit for doing what hasn’t been done, to my knowledge, since the time of Jethro Tull.
‘In Becoming a Ghost’ definitely has a more progressive feel to it than even ‘Autotheism’. I’ve always enjoyed the bass work on these records because it is more than just your basic, behind-the-guitar-style bass playing so predominant in metal these days. “Black Star” has a very progressive feel to it, with a majority of the vocals being clean and there being a distinct taste of Cynic in the mix.
This is easily the longest album the band has put out, with most songs coming in over the five-minute mark. The direction the album seems to be headed in is much more artistic and expressive than previous works. There is more experimentation with different elements – like bits of orchestration popping up now and again – with more emphasis on dynamics and overall flow. ‘In Becoming a Ghost’ does really flow well from one track to the next between riffs. I can imagine that going from blast beats and tremolo picking to slow, sweet, and sexy soloing isn’t the easiest thing to stitch together, but Keene and McKinney do a quality job – which is almost expected from such high-caliber musicians at this point, but you’ve got to give credit where credit is due.
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the Depeche Mode cover being one of the heavier tunes on the album, but it is a well-done cover that really holds true to The Faceless’ sound. I had to look up the original song, and after a quick listen, I think I much prefer the cover over the original. I can’t think of a more extreme juxtaposition in covers, but the first to come to mind is Anaal Nathrakh’s cover of “Powerslave.”
The track, “I am” is a much more classic example of the Faceless sound – fast, complex riffing with crazy, sporadic solos scattered about. The solos on this record are all pretty slow and very soulful. There is another spoken word track, “Ghost Reprise” that breaks up the album, adding some more texture to the overall feel. It goes right into the instrumental track, “(Instru)mental Illness” – points for the double entendre as it made me chuckle. I really like this track as I feel it shows off the band as a whole. Again, there is some tasty bass work throughout that always makes me happy. The track is short and sweet compared to the rest of the album, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome.
All in all, as a longtime fan of The Faceless, I’m pretty stoked on ‘In Becoming a Ghost’. It is a very dynamic album that really showcases the talent of the guys behind the music. The days of ‘Planetary Duality’ are long past, but that doesn’t mean we’re on a downhill path. If anything, they’re headed in a new direction that seems to lend itself to more expressive sounds. I again want to point out the fact they managed to sneak in a flute solo and it wasn’t awful; weird, absolutely, but not too bad!
I think this album will open up the gates for new fans to hop on the Faceless camp without alienating the old-school fans too much. When it comes down to it, bands change over time and that’s simply inevitable. So why not embrace the change and go at it with an open mind and some really loud speakers?