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Review: Planet Eater – Blackness From The Stars

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From Regina, Saskatchewan, our Canadian Death Metal vocabulary expands as Planet Eater launches ‘Blackness From The Stars’ on the 4th of August. I remember the days where an average listener’s response to labels and genres was, “It’s just plain fucking metal!” This was during the golden age of Roadrunner Records, roughly 1998 to 2008, where nearly every male-fronted band used mid-range vocals inspired by the likes of Phil Anselmo and Max Cavalera, yet despite getting labeled groove or nu-metal, there wasn’t a single band that could be permanently confined to a single genre box. This is very much how this album comes across, very diverse and genre-defying.

The first track has a very hard rock feel, making “The Boats” ideal to play in a packed arena; cruising through verse and chorus, one can hear a definite Deftones influence and perhaps the sort of style to act as a gateway for Foo Fighters fans. In fact, the only thing that really stops it from being a rock song is the use of down-tuned guitars and harsh vocals. Like some of the most iconic hard rock songs, the bridge is the segment that perfects the song; it changes the timing and style without alienating itself from the rest of the song – a great way to begin an album.

Going for a faster pace, I will have to say that “Pile of Bones” did not appeal to me until later on in the song. Instrumentally, the beginning is sound, but I felt that the vocals were conflicting and a little out of place – it’s interesting what can make and break a segment of a song. However, the song is rescued at one minute and fifteen seconds, making the duration smooth sailing from this point on. I think this is the ideal track for Soulfly and (later) Sepultura fans, I wouldn’t say the riffs are nu-metal but more or less groove with punchy drum fills to give listeners the sense that they’re on a faster merry-go-round, or maybe in a house circling in a hurricane. In particular, I was pleased that the simple guitar solo had stayed true to the style of that era. Listeners that liked heavy music during the pre-mainstream-metalcore days will love this album.

The Gojira influence is strong in “Cold Confines”, especially the beginning which reminds me so much of Oroborus. The verse challenges our perception as to what is a fast song, for instrumentally, this segment is indeed played at a faster pace, but the rest of the song soldiers and progresses into slower variations that could range anywhere from melodic death metal to deathcore. The lead guitar phases through with great subtlety and enriches it like a light source to an otherwise cruising red car with a healthy-sounding engine.

“Lies Evolution” starts off with a definite nu-metal riff that had me worrying Fred Durst might suddenly appear. Fortunately however, this is more of a song that would have (earlier) Lamb of God fans packing whole venues. Instrumentally, the track is quite unpredictable but doesn’t for one second sound faulty or unstructured when an interjection happens. This is the song where the front man shines the brightest; the vocal flow in this track is just flawless and has an answer for everything, and while I’m not a fan of that intro riff, I did grow to like it with the howling screams over it. So far I have to say that this album does not have any actual bad songs, just tiny disagreeable snippets that are quickly forgotten.

It is the drumming that stands out in “Suffer What They Must”, for I struggle to focus on any other instrument beyond the bass intro. There are many opinions as to what makes a good drummer, some praising the sheer speed [in most cases, use of triggers], while others defending basic time-keeping and not overplaying [basically, common sense]. For me personally, the two are just basic criteria… the asset that truly rises above mediocrity is coordination; arms and legs functioning as though they both have a mind of their own. Despite years of practice and experience, not everyone can do this. This track in particular gives me the mental image of a charioteer; the snare is the whip and the wheels are the double kicks, both working separately to commandeer the brutish war horses upon some poor helpless bastard of a pikeman. The second half of the song allows the guitars to shine more, almost like a diabolical aftermath of a city slowly burning to the ground. Goddamn.

That drummer also manages to steal the spotlight for “Kill on Sight” as it is is a proper thrash song for the first half of the duration. Now when I say thrash, I am not referring to any of the big four from the eighties, but the modern thrashers from Scandinavia that can’t seem to get the recognition they deserve and therefore disband before they’ve really begun their careers. The bridge is an awesome display of machine-gun double kicks and wailing guitar leads, fashioning a breakdown of the main riff; breakdown in metal meaning, the main riff broken down and put together to accommodate a slower structure of the song … not open string chugs.

“A Fault to Fix” has verses that feel like they are metal’s answer to hardcore. Somehow, I just can’t shake the reminder of the Acacia Strain’s earlier works. Even the whole note guitar riffs played over the fast paced drums seems similar. I think it’s good that they’re not limiting their style, a lot of death metal albums today are below average purely because most bands are scared to come across as anything remotely core, which is a shame and a fault for many of them to fix, because tracks such as this are proof that diversity can work to an extent.

Chilling it back, “The Spoil” opens with a casual drum beat, layered over with bass, and then covered with everything else. Being one of the slower songs on the album, it is by no means dull or boring. The screams and sometimes melancholy sounding guitars stop the track from sounding like filler. Near the end of the song, I really feel the vocalist’s pain and anger. This is the type of song that listeners will actually want to know what the lyrics are about.

The title track “Blackness from the Stars” begins the closure of the album with what sounds like a stoner riff and has everything else revolving around its style and pace. It did not really do anything for me, I had high hopes that there’d be some surprise after about three minutes in, but nothing came. The guitars got louder near the end of the track, but that’s about it. Not the most inspiring finish, but we can easily forgive considering how good this album has been.

Overall, that’s 8.7/10. Apart from the one song and one segment of another song, I feel the album is just a brilliant addition to this year’s death metal albums.

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