Artist: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Album: American “Christianity”
No matter who you are, convictions are crucial. Think about it—no matter what you believe in, no matter what motivates you, the important thing is that something motivates you. Without a greater impetus, a great driving factor, humanity would be in a permanent form of stagnation. There would be no political or religious reform—no scientific progress or literary development. There would also be no The Picture of Dorian Gray—a young and progressive metalcore band erupting out of the depths of New Jersey. Combining awe-inspiring symphonic and electronic elements along with skull-splitting heaviness, American “Christianity” is a dynamic release that uses energetic and ambitious moral obligation as an impetus to create an immense and immersive release that will take hold of the listener by the ears and shake them into submission.
American “Christianity” at first strikes the listener with bold, blistering and blunt heaviness. Jarring, spine-shaking grooves hammer at the listener’s backbone, while visceral, throat-rending screams rip holes in their flesh. “The Deceived and the Deceiver” is a keen example of this—using metallic riffs with pulsating, pounding percussion to keep the listener’s feet tapping and head bobbing, while at the same time leading them blindly to their fate—as the track reaches its apex in one of the most simultaneously brilliant and destructive breakdowns the genre has to offer. All the while, the toggled low, bellowed growls and piercing, rasping screams take turns swinging at the listener’s eardrums like sledgehammers, slowly wearing away at their sanity. “No Honor Among Thieves” is just as crushing and sinister, but in a more direct way, bypassing the band’s penchant for the riffy and metallic in favor of going straight for the throat, ripping out the listener’s jugular with a series of low-down-and-dirty groove-ridden breakdowns that rip flesh from bone and drain the listener’s life force from their veins.
What The Picture of Dorian Gray bring to the table next is even more incredible then their prodigal divergences into destructive and demoralizing heaviness. After the listener is left beaten and broken by breakdown after gut-wrenching breakdown, American “Christianity” redeems them, lifting them up with crooned clean vocals and symphonic sections that create an ethereal atmosphere completely unlike the monster that brought the listener to their knees in the first place. The clean vocals and melodic songwriting that follow the harsh, crushing pummeling of some tracks on the band’s debut full length is the light to the album’s figurative immeasurable darkness. No track exemplifies this better than the album’s title track. An initial dynamo of immense and pulse-pounding heaviness obfuscates the listener in the most pitch and deep darkness imaginable—only to shine light upon them and lift them up with a redeeming and catchy cleanly sung component that serves as their veritable salvation.
The Picture of Dorian Gray’s ability to model their motives and morals into their songwriting dynamic and method is uncanny to say the least. While American “Christianity” is home to a driving and compelling lyrical component, the music quite literally speaks for itself—using themes of darkness and light to superimpose downcast, downtrodden depression and uproarious, uplifting light upon the listener’s spirit. “American ‘Christianity’” does this brilliantly—as does “Hypocritical Faith” and “A Wretch Like Me.” In fact, nearly every track on American “Christianity” does this beautifully—which leads to the album’s only noticeable flaw. While each track brilliantly executes the light/dark, heavy/soft dynamic, that’s just it—every track uses it. Even as it is done to near-perfection, it comes across at times as being overdone to near perfection. However, even considering that minor pitfall, the listener has absolutely no problem finding themselves immersed in The Picture of Dorian Gray’s breakout release.
As timeless as the tale that serves as the band’s namesake, The Picture of Dorian Gray have crafted something stunning in American “Christianity”. Jarring heaviness meets head-on with soothing symphony to create an immersive (if not vaguely repetitive) release that slices the listener open only to soothe and seal their wounds.
For Fans Of: August Burns Red, Memphis May Fire, I, the Deceiver, I the Breather, Vanna
By: Connor Welsh