Sean Hennessey bassist for This or the Apocalypse, and a former coworker, pitched me a download for their sophomore release Haunt What's Left, and asked me to give it a listen. Having known Sean for several years now, and the fact that TOTA is a local favorite from Lancaster County, I was hesitant about writing a review. So as not to offend, let's just call this piece a reflection or commentary.
Not being a huge fan of metalcore or even much of the modern trends in metal, I first scoured the web to see what others have been saying so far about Haunt What's Left before writing. Reaction overall is generally positive, although some sites still think TOTA's debut Monument is better. I can't comment on that simply because, and even though Sean passed me that one too, I passed on it; too hardcore for me. Generally, there seems to be some consensus that Haunt What's Left is more pure metalcore, on the melodic side, in the vein of early Killswitch Engage or All That Remains, dating TOTA to 2005. I can hear some of that. Then there are those that think TOTA is largely mimicking Lancaster County mates August Burns Red. Whatever. I'm sure, being from the same locale, they've rubbed off on each other even a little bit. Finally, on a more negative side, some are simply saying that Haunt What's Left is typical, probably passe, metalcore, but also adding that TOTA is one of its best representatives. After all that, here's my thoughts.
Haunt What's Left shows This of the Apocalypse trying to up their game and so may be a band on the cusp of change. Recruiting Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler, who is a fan and friend of the band, to co-produce with Josh Wilbur (Atreyu, Avenged Sevenfold) is no small statement which says, we want to progress. Certainly, I can hear Adler's influence in the rhythm section. Additionally, while the heaviness of the hardcore has not been turned down, I can hear some strong hints, and I mean hints, of both old school thrash metal and more favorable melodic metal. You can hear the former in the opener Charmer, but also elsewhere in Revenant. The latter is most noticeable often in some breakdowns. These are good things to this listening ear, which can quickly turn away from the current harshness in modern metal.
Nevertheless, listening to Subverse, Hellish, Revenant, or the quite compelling Lamnidae, I find that TOTA has become more accessible to me, and certainly on to something good. Even vocalist Ricky Armellino tries some actual singing (a very small amount) as on Revenant rather than screaming and growling all the time. Cripes between that and the more melodic side, This or the Apocalypse might end up pissing off more than a few diehard metalcore fans.
Well, if Haunt What's Left is progress for This of the Apocalypse, then I think they're on the high road. Maybe TOTA will be the next Avenged Sevenfold and simply grow, or better, evolve out of the mass of current metalcore and become a whole new breed. Now, that's progress.
Haunt What's Left shows This of the Apocalypse trying to up their game, progress, and distinguish themselves in the metalcore genre. Nuances of melodic accessibility are part of this transition, and that's a very good thing.
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