Album: The Awakening [EP]
Local pride is a powerful thing, especially in this day and age. Having faith and courage in the city you reside in–local Nationalism, if you will–can speak volumes towards the integrity of your surroundings. Whether it’s locally sourced food, locally made products, or in Detroit-based Assassins’ case, local music, it’s always nice to see elements of your hometown make it to the national stage. While they might not carry the fame and clout of other Michigan musicians like For the Fallen Dreams, Legend, I See Stars or We Came As Romans, Assassins’ debut EP The Awakening contains the best elements of all of the above, providing the most crushing brutality and dynamic melody that Detroit has to offer.
Punchy, rambunctious drums roll back and forth with muddy, low-down bass while shredding, chugging guitars do battle overhead. Meanwhile, roaring, coarse vocals toggle back and forth with beautiful, clear clean vocals whilst the entire scene is sprinkled with light keys, synth and programming. The Awakening uses all of these dynamics to create and instrumentally engaging combination of post-hardcore and metalcore similarly to that of local major-leaguers We Came as Romans. However, the pervasive nature of the keys and the heavy, downtrodden beatdown of the guitars allow the harmonically-driven melodic sections to soar higher, and the skin-melting breakdowns to slam harder, making the contrast between the two more stark than they would be otherwise.
In fact, contrast seem to be what Assassins are all about. The Awakening, beginning with the intro and all the way through the last second of the last track sees the band darting quickly between clean vocally-driven, melodic sections and heavy, chug-lead crushing moments. All the while, the guitars duel with each other in a constant shred-off allowing the dynamic change in vocals–and the degree to which the keys are present–set the mood. When the clean vocals kick in, and the keys harmonize with the pulsing drums and the rolling bass, there is an effect which seems to cleanse the listener–an effect often needed by the sludgy, muddy and grinding breakdown that came before it. The EP’s title track, “The Awakening” displays this dynamic back-and-froth shift between sounds most readily. Kicking off with a half-groove, half-chugged breakdown which gives way to a key-driven, hyper-melodic chorus, Assassins are doing what they do best and killing the competition.
The only misstep Assassins make whilst ascending the staircase to metalcore stardom is slight, but still evident. The Awakening, while clearly the sum of efforts made by an extraordinarily talented and young band, still finds itself in the midst of some generic pitfalls. Like it or not, the heavy-soft dynamic used throughout the album has been done nearly to death, and is kept alive–even barley, if at all–by the iron lung that is the unique inclusion of keys and driving, positive lyrics. While Assassins are at their best when they are focusing on aggression or melody, their efforts at combining the two can sound homogenous. This is only as detracting as the listener allows it to be, however, because the pounding instrumentation and the hook-laden catchiness of the vocals and lyrics still make each song easy to get lost in.
Whether killing time or killing musical boredom, Assassins’ latest EP, The Awakening, proves itself to be a worthy addition to your arsenal. Positive, uplifting lyrics screamed, shouted and sang over driving, punchy instrumentation provides an entrancing effort for the listener to get carried away in. Even if it finds itself indulging in the generic side of an overpopulated genre, The Awakening provides a primarily unique sound which shows us a band deserving to survive the impending culling season the “post-metalcore” genre combination is staring down.
By: Connor Welsh/Eccentricism