The Faceless - Planetary Duality
Lifeforce Records
Technical Death Metal
9 songs (31:38)
Release year: 2009
Lifeforce Records
Reviewed by Goat

Planetary Duality, the second album from five young Californian ‘Core survivors that go by the name of The Faceless, is both a nice surprise and a disappointment. Ostensibly a concept album about aliens, the album does its best to take the best bits from Cynic and Necrophagist and rearrange them into a new, exciting sound. it only partially succeeds, but the band have an odd, experimental sense of songwriting which means that you’ll be listening to this album a few times before you ’get’ it. Of course, the fact that it’s barely over half an hour long means that that’s not such a chore; why do bands nowadays think that a ‘full-length’ is anything less than forty minutes of music? Maybe it’s the downloaders making them feel that anything more than thirty minutes isn’t worth it, but still, it certainly doesn’t speak much for the band’s ability to write music.

In any case, once you’ve managed to contain your outrage, you’ll discover that Planetary Duality is quite good. Opener Prison Born starts with spooky ambience before switching between heavy grind and catchy riffs, then The Ancient Covenant jumps in, all guitar histrionics over a very solid Death Metal base. There are influences from Decapitated to Dream Theater mixed in, and whilst it never quite heads in the direction you expect or would like it to go, the destination is a pretty good one. After many, many listens I still have no idea how I feel about the usage of vocoder vocals a la Focus, it’s either a worthy tribute that fits in with the general experimentalism, or is a completely annoying and unnecessary attempt to give the album a sci-fi feel. Either way, the majority of vocals performed are your typical growls, with some great clean singing on several tracks like Coldly Calculated Design and Sons Of Belial, which adds a whole new dimension to the music.

If you buy Planetary Duality, the chances are that it’ll be for the guitar leads, which are frequent, melodic, and excellent. The use of melody on the album is actually pretty fantastic, from the piano interlude in XenoChrist before the band descends into a whirlwind of Blackened rage, to the widdly outro to Sons Of Belial, it’s well-judged and awesomely executed. There are still some Deathcore influences here and there, the stop-start riffing that the band love to use as a bridge between leads one example, but all in all it’s clear that there’s more taken from, say, Meshuggah, than Metalcore. Just listen to the ominous opening of Sons Of Belial – you can hear the Vital Remains as clear as day.

The Faceless are clearly a talented bunch, but it’s undeniable that just a little more finesse in the songwriting would improve things tenfold. Did they really have to have some hysterical guy blathering on about aliens and the government’s lies on Planetary Duality I: Hideous Revelation? Fine, it sets up part two magnificently and as a burgeoning X Files fan it was fun the first couple of times, but on repeated listens it’s teeth-grindingly annoying, as well as being far too obvious a move for the band. Come on; surprise us in a good way for once! Ultimately, Planetary Duality just isn’t quite as gripping as it should be, and whilst you can forgive the band a lot for their youth and for the fact that this is only album number two, no-one can deny that album number three is where The Faceless will really launch into the Death Metal stratosphere.

Killing Songs :
The Ancient Covenant, Coldly Calculated Design, XenoChrist, Sons Of Belial
Goat quoted 75 / 100
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