Artist: The Greatest Virtue
Album: Atlas of Life
Take a second and think of the enormity that defines the sum of an individuals experiences they encounter throughout life. These instances—trials and tribulations, joys and drudges—define them as a person. They take a rough concept of an individual—a mass of flesh and bone—and from those raw materials, craft a personality, an outlook and a demeanor; what it truly is to be human. This collection of experiences and instances is practically boundless in both importance and number, with any one week providing enough material to fill a novel—which makes collecting a compendium as ambitiously named as The Greatest Virtue’s Atlas of Life a chore to even contemplate, let alone complete. However ambitious and zealous it might be, that doesn’t make it impossible—the proof is found within these New Jersey newcomers’ debut full-length release. Filled with instrumental influences ranging from brutalizing death metal to hyper-catchy thrash, Atlas of Life is diverse and dynamic enough to truly represent the vast assortment of life’s experience in a single, magnificent release.
The first thing that catches the listener’s ear upon cracking the binding of Atlas of Life is the unique approach taken by vocalist Dan Cimino. Neither a shrill shriek nor a guttural gurgle, Cimino attacks the listener with a perfectly gruff and coarse shout that expertly walks the tightrope between a yell and scream—a strut that leans tantalizingly to one side or the other depending on the track. “Rapture,” for example is a brilliant display of Cimino’s standard fare; meshing his harsh, thrashy and punk-influenced shout with driving, energetic instrumentation that combines to unleash a perfect storm of perfunctory fury upon the listener. “Hubris,” however, sees Cimino step outside of his comfort zone to an incredible effect, including portions of half-talked vocals alongside a shrill (for Cimino) scream and some of The Greatest Virtue’s most infectiously catchy instrumentation. Atlas of Life’s vocal element is done further justice by the addition of guest vocalists Justin Matthews (of Toothgrinder) and Stefan Strawinksi (of A Raven Among Doves)—the latter of which adds one of the most brilliantly dynamic vocal performances to a track in recent history, creating a crushing, dismally heavy atmosphere unlike any other moment heard throughout the album.
While Cimino’s vocal effort is outstanding and catches the ear almost immediately, the true passion in The Greatest Virtue’s performance is found in the driving, engaging and riveting instrumentation. Percussionist Dan Smith leads the way with percussion that is simply unique. Rather than rely on lightning-fast blast beats, brutalizing, quick footwork or over-the-top fills, he crafts solid, integral patterns and adds flare with overtly jazz-influenced fills and flams that keep the listener’s ears peeled. “Elysium,” as well as “Hive Mind” are true of this—with bouncy, a-typical percussion that gets even more off-kilter with fills and flares that are markedly different from a majority of metalcore percussion. Alongside Dan Smith’s riveting drumming lies the fretwork of bassist Rick Smith and guitarist Bill Smith. While Rick weaves low, plodding perfection between Dan’s devastating percussion, Bill is busy capturing the listener’s interest almost completely. To be blunt, The Greatest Virtue’s fretwork is…well, their greatest virtue. Take, for example, “Hubris.” Without a doubt, “Hubris” is home to one of the most contagiously catchy grooves this side of an Every Time I Die album, adding hints of southern swing and bounce to an otherwise straightforward metallic riff that completely succeeds in infecting the listener’s mind. It is moment’s like the climactic crushing groove on “Hubris” that make Atlas of Life such a captivating release.
Between the southern influences and hellacious fretwork found throughout The Greatest Virtue’s debut album, they have truly encapsulated all of the experiences of a veteran band and told them thoroughly and honestly on their first go-round on the scene. Atlas of Life is a tell-all unlike many scene before in metalcore. It takes an energetic, ambitious metalcore approach and spices it with seasonings ranging from bitter, harsh thrash metal to bold, brutish death metal as well as blunt and bewildering hardcore. Either lurking in the bowels of “Hubris,” hiding in the guest appearance in “Designing Reality” or added in the aggression of “Apex Predator,” there is something to found for fans of any kind of fast-paced, break-neck music.
The first chapter of Atlas of Life might fail to engage the listener completely, but should they decide to trek on, they will find a rewarding and mesmerizing album that only gets more potent as time carries on. The Greatest Virtue make up for what they lack in age and experience and make up for it in prodigal talent, proving that perhaps, youthful energy is the greatest virtue of them all.
For Fans Of: Norma Jean, Every Time I Die, The Chariot, ’67.
By: Connor Welsh