Artist: After the Burial
Album: Dig Deep
When presented with an abnormally challenging obstacle, it is no longer enough to simply “try.” In the face of overwhelming adversity—the kind that tests every fiber of your being—it takes more than just putting your head down and pushing to come out on top. You have to Dig Deep, and that’s exactly what Twin Cities’ Titans of groove and “thall” did. After last year’s tragedy involving deceased guitarist Justin Lowe, After the Burial were put in a position that couldn’t be easily side-stepped or “GoFundMe-d” out of. The band, rocked to the core, decided to take a brief break from performances, going practically silent on social media outlets to—you guessed it—Dig Deep and form their strongest release since Rareform. Combining catchiness and crush in a smooth-but-sinister way that the band are known for, Dig Deep sees the band rejuvenated by their moment of introspective silence, unleashing 40 minutes of groovy heaviness that will have listeners’ necks snapping before the first track is through.
Instrumentally, After the Burial are and have always been synonymous with complicated polyrhythms and punishing breakdowns that manage to get caught in the listener’s head as if it were Top-40 Pop. While In Dreams saw the band focusing more on technicality and Wolves Within was a markedly lackluster release, Dig Deep is an album that sees After the Burial getting back on the track that made them a hit with the heavy music community in the first place. Percussionist Dan Carle is nothing short of dizzying—from the first patterns in “Collapse” to the bouncy, bold grooves in “Deluge” and all the way until the final, furious breakdown of “Sway Of the Break,”Carle’s frenzied candor is matched only by his brilliant fill-work and perfectly mixed kit. With a deep, thick kick drum and toms contrasted by a sharp snare and vivacious cymbals, Carle’s kit—as well as his playing—is a spectacle to behold throughout the entirety of Dig Deep. “Deluge,” as well as the hefty “Heavy Lies the Ground” sees Carle working brilliantly with bassist Lee Foral’s fluid, grimy grooves—coating every pattern Carle plays with sludge as if his bass lines were a river of mud. However, the riff-driven anthems “Lost in the Static” and “Laurentian Ghosts” (as well as the recurring riff in the aforementioned “Deluge”) see Carle keeping pace with guitarist Trent Hafdahl. Hafdahl brings all the djent-friendly groove and tone-perfected riffing that After the Burial fans could possibly want—with tracks like “Catacombs” and “Laurentian Ghosts” highlighting Hafdahl’s lower end just as the lead single “Lost in the Static” and “Deluge” see him cutting loose and slicing the listener to shreds with sharp, carefully crafted, shred-tinted riffs.
With colorful, crushing instrumentation covered, the listener’s attention is turned to After the Burial’s frontman, Anthony Notarmaso. Notarmaso has a difficult job to do: he must tread the balance beam lying between taking away from After the Burial’s bright and driving musicianship and being too absent, leaving the listener unenthused during the band’s more straightforward moments. Fortunately, Notarmaso does his job well—dominating with a harsh, hefty mid-range shout that pushes hard during the band’s mosh-inducing breakdowns but backs off during Hafdahl’s more technically impressive moments. “Heavy Lies the Ground” is a great example—as a heavier, more aggressive track, it sees Notarmaso screaming and shouting over a majority of the song, using an incredibly powerful voice to belt both knee-buckling low growls and piercing screams. Notarmaso’s range is just as impressive as his endurance—with tracks like “Heavy Lies the Ground” and “Sway of the Break” featuring some of his fastest vocal patterns on the album—both of which sound as full-bodied and brutal as his more drawn out and deep bellows.
Even in spite of an energetic instrumental performance and a dynamic, driving vocal effort, Dig Deep is still haunted by the phantom that plagued a majority of Wolves Within: monotony. While not nearly as problematic as its predecessor, Dig Deep—especially the second half—does run together a little bit. If it weren’t for moments like the obscenely catchy climax to “Catacombs” and the gimmicky siren in “Laurentian Ghosts” (which I love), the entirety of the second half of the album seems relatively unremarkable—especially after the first four tracks are remarkably unique. While this does wear on the listener after repeated spins, there are still many moments of subtle brilliance in the second act of Dig Deep—especially during the last track, “Sway at the Break,” whose closing breakdown is a beautiful, brutal way to end the release.
While After the Burial may not have knocked it out of the park, they definitely dug deep and sent it flying for the fences. With their latest album, the band overcome loss—and a less than outstanding previous two releases—with Dig Deep, a release that chugs, shreds and grooves it’s way into the hearts of heavy music enthusiasts everywhere.
For Fans Of: Volumes, Structures, Veil of Maya, Born of Osiris
By: Connor Welsh