REVIEW: Athena’s Grace – Cardinals (EP/2014)



Artist: Athena’s Grace

Album: Cardinals – EP

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to fly? Not just the pure majesty of soaring miles above the ground—shrugging off the terrestrial problems of earth’s firmament and leaving them behind—but the pure physical strain it would require? As much as it would require willpower and passion, it would require physical strength and power: the desire needed to overcome the trials and tribulations pulling at your feet as hard as gravity itself combined with the force needed to roam the skies without aid or assistance. Michigan’s most recent metalcore masters find this culmination of passion and power in the debut EP, Athena’s Grace—Cardinals. Athena’s Grace perfectly balance heavy, intense instrumentation against heart-felt, emotional lyrical themes and vocal performance and take flight, soaring high above the efforts of their peers.

Cardinals, on one hand, is a juggernaut—the pure embodiment of power and fury needed to push through even the most adverse challenges. Athena’s Grace make brilliant use of brooding, punishing guitars and pummeling, pounding percussion to create soundscapes as sturdy as a warrior’s heart beat, but as lacerating as a warrior’s sword. “R.A.T.,” for instance, is a track that is nothing but pure anger and aggression—and this is reflected in the instrumentation and dynamics within. The guitar ranges from razor-sharp and skin slicing to blunt, brutalizing downtuned heaviness—all overtop of the unstoppable galloping candor of the drumming. While the percussion beats and punches at the listener, cracking ribs and bruising bones, the guitar makes deep cuts into their flesh, spilling blood and precious life force as if it were water and waste. The same intensity can be found in “Gypsy,” the album’s debut single. While chug-heavy guitars steamroll the listener, the bass and drumming crush what’s left of the listener’s bones into fine-grade dust.

Athena’s Grace aren’t just another intimidating, heavy band to add to the ever-growing repertoire of nameless, faceless chuggernauts emerging from the scene’s woodwork. While Cardinals is definitely a relentless, heavy beast to reckon with, it is a beast driven by heart and passion, not mindless heavy-for-the-sake-of-heaviness. This passion that accompanies the release’s unbridled fury can be found within the lyrics and the vocals that scream them. “Homewrecker” is perhaps the most standout example of this—with lyrical themes that struggle with hopelessness and family belted fiercely by harsh, heartfelt screams. “Cardinals,” the EP’s namesake, is another beautiful example of Athena’s Grace’s comprehensive combination of poetic, beautifully written lyrics and intense, grating screams that truly place the listener in the vocalist’s shoes. Even the EP’s more aggressive tracks—“Gypsy” and “R.A.T.”—are home to superb vocal performances that truly convey the purest and most heartfelt passion possible to the listener, creating an immersive, in-depth listening experience that is all too easy to get lost in.

When Athena’s Grace’s dynamic, masterful musicianship meet their penchant for poetic, vivid lyrical imagery and emotive, intense vocals, the listener is left with Cardinals. It is Athena’s Grace’s ability to jump from bitter and brooding to emotional and evocative at the turn of a track that makes Cardinals such a comprehensive culmination of metalcore mastery. While tracks like “R.A.T.” make the listener feel strong enough to take on an entire army, “Cardinals” and “Homewrecker” pull at the listener’s heartstrings, forcing them to truly feel the words being screamed into their ears and the pummeling pulse of the instrumentation that serves as their vector. Together, the band’s two extremes are linked by beautiful transitions and stunning mixes of power and passion that create a diverse, dynamic listening experience that will stay with the listener long after the EP has run its course.

Take flight from your earthly bounds—allow Athena’s Grace to lift your spirit higher than the clouds that obscure your sky. Once you do, you will truly feel the passion and power to be found within Cardinals, an EP that creatively combines heaviness and emotion to create an immersive and intense listening experience that will have you hooked like a fish and gutted, begging for more.


For Fans Of: Faded Grey, The Ghost Inside, Silence, Kingmaker

By: Connor Welsh


NOTES: This EP was recorded at Pearl Sound Studios and produced, mixed and mastered by Chuck Alkazian and Josh Karpowicz. The fretwork found within Cardinals was provided by Carl Kirby, Jimmy Ash and Jordan McPherson.