REVIEW: As A Conceit – Frown Upon Us [2016]


Artist: As A Conceit 

Album: Frown Upon Us


We are surrounded by injustice. Every day, everywhere and in all shapes and sizes, we witness or are subject to them—hell, we may even commit them ourselves, depending on who is reading this. But whether you instigate or simply bear witness to the cruel mistreatment of our brothers and sisters, there is no denying the greatest injustice aren’t ones we, as humans, can impart—they are the ones we are born into as we enter this world. Be it race, sexual preference, gender, social status or income bracket, the instances in which we are born largely determine how the majority of people treat us. While some can be changed, many cannot—making it a cycle of impropriety that continues generation after generation; a constant oppression.

I’m sick of it. Thousands upon thousands are, and even if you aren’t, you’re sick of reading me rant about it—which is why recent Famined Records signees and ruthlessly groovy progressive metalcore act As A Conceit have crafted their latest offering. Frown Upon Us a monumental testament to passion, power and musical prowess—catchy yet cruel and punishing all at once—a resounding testament to the cruelties inflicted upon us by one another and by the world at large; a powerful call for change designed to shake the heavy music community as a whole.

Imagine the bizarre love child between early Hundredth and Northlane. Now pepper it with ambience and fill in the cracks with occasional moments of oppressive heaviness; now you’re beginning to paint the picture that is As A Conceit’s creative and immersive instrumentation. From the very start of “Boneheads,” percussionist Alberto Soave captures the listener’s attention with bouncy, incentive drumming that is neither straightforward nor is it over-the-top. Tracks like the aforementioned “Boneheads,” as well as the most recent and mesmerizing single “Idle Hands” see Soave pounding away with unstoppable energy and unmatchable candor—while more delicate and intricate songs like “Modern Day Heroes” and “Running Tired” see him working brilliantly with bassist Filippo Dart, creating a dynamic and fluid low end that starts subtly but build into raunchy and booming displays of groove-laden heaviness. Dart adds depth and punch to As A Conceit’s heavier portions but plays double duty working with guitarists Giovanni Bottan and Andrea Comacchio, who range from ruthlessness to pure rapture with the notes they play. Where “Boneheads,” and the scintillating “Fight For Crumbs” are both faster paced and furious displays of furious fretwork from all three, “Running Tired,” as well as any of the (too) numerous interludes and moments of atmosphere see Bottan and Comacchio taking the lead while Dart rumbles beneath them, supporting the softer notes with a firm-but-gentle plodding bass groove. Bottan and Comacchio both add the great majority of diversity to Frown Upon Us—ensuring that while the topic of their songwriting may speak of fortune and worldly instance frowning upon the less fortunate, the listener will be doing everything but frowning while this dynamic duo take them on an adventure through aggression and awe-inspiring melody both.

Where As A Conceit truly take the listener’s breath away is with the truly beautiful vocal effort that defines Frown Upon Us. Frontman Fabio Bullo—proficient in piercing screams and a pure, soaring singing voice—dominates throughout the band’s Famined Records debut; from the first time the listener hears “Boneheads” to the stunning beauty of the first lines of “Modern Day Heroes.” Bullo brings life to Dart’s musings–Dart, who writes of disgust with the world around him—with religion, greed, war, and the slow detriment of the human condition—giving listeners from Venice to Las Vegas material they can relate to. Songs like “Boneheads” especially find themselves working their way into the listener’s brain, nesting in their gray matter like a worm, thriving on being stuck on repeat—all thanks to Bullo’s incredible vocal presence. Where “Boneheads” is a brilliant example, in reality, just about every song As A Conceit bring to the table on Frown Upon Us is exemplary of Bullo excellently on his own or with Normandie’s Philip Strand, creating moments of pure bitterness and aggression that give way to jaw-dropping beauty.

Frown Upon Us is a journey—clutching the listener by the ears and bringing them along on an adventure through dissonance and dazzling ethereality alike. Every song is fresh and uplifting, doing something new and energetic that even veterans of progressive metalcore will likely be completely new to. However, like any journey, there are lulls in the road. When it comes to progressive metalcore, atmosphere is almost a given. There are going to be moments of serenity designed to soothe the aches and pains inflicted by bizarre time signatures and brutalizing breakdowns. For many bands, it’s a matter of finding balance; a subtle, short interlude or a couple soft moments at the ends or beginnings of songs—typically not both. For As A Conceit, however, the only flaw Frown Upon Us encounters is just that—there is too much down time. Between the full minutes of practical emptiness in “Modern Day Heroes” and “Running Tired” (among others) and a full interlude in the form of “Autumno,” dangerously close to one fifth of the album’s run time is eaten up by drifting, ethereal emptiness—short changing the listener, especially when As A Conceit are as brilliant at songwriting as they are. That said, the remainder of Frown Upon Us is simply stunning—enough to excuse the high amounts of relative nothingness—keeping the listener on board and buckled in for the entire release. For a young band from a faraway land, As A Conceit show worldliness and experience—along with a wealth of excellence that is far from frown inducing.



For Fans Of: Northlane, Erra, Hundredth, Ceiling of Anvers, Damned Spring Fragrantia

By: Connor Welsh