A Million Dead Birds Laughing
One could make the case that, aside from Sweden, Australia has the best metal scene per capita in the world. From black metal to Ne Obliviscaris and the fabulous DSBM scene spearheaded by Woods of Desolation and Germ, to more traditional core offerings like Thy Art is Murder and Aversions Crown, the talent in the land down under is phenomenal. For the last couple years, A Million Dead Birds Laughing has also been making quite a name for themselves, especially interesting considering they have remained unsigned. The last year brought quite a change to the quartet, bringing in new vocalist Darren Leslie, and with him came a shift that saw the band toning down their experimental -core side of their sound, and adding a much more atmospheric element.
The way the band creates their atmosphere is not unlike a band such as Ulcerate or Gorguts. The riffs are often centered around arpeggiated chords, the notes bleeding into one another. But where the aforementioned bands use pure dissonance to create their atmosphere, AMDBL is much more often melodic with their approach, making it relatively easy to listen to and understand. The drums also follow the riffs more than similar bands, creating an interesting sense of uniformity. There are still hardcore elements in the mix, and grooving chugs are still involved, but they are sparsely used. It’s fair to say they have a sound few match, as their post-deathcore approach to their atmosphere is as unique as it is interesting.
However, in comparison to their previous work, there’s a sense of awkwardness. What made their previous work Xen so impressive was the vocal approach and the catchy songwriting. It was savage and very experimental. There were actual sing/scream-along hooks, that just added an intense sense of replayability that this record just doesn’t have. For example, Darren’s vocals on Bloom are lacking in charisma. They aren’t necessarily cookie-cutter, but there aren’t many moments that they are particularly unique. The music, while unique in itself, lacks a lot of memorability due to there being few standout parts. That isn’t to say that this record is a “few listens and be done with it” kind of record; there are many moments where they show that they have as much potential as any metal band out there, as evidenced by the closing track, ‘Equilibrium’, but they just doesn’t showcase it as well as the finely tuned sound they carved out for themselves on their previous records.
Nevertheless, one cannot doubt their ambition. This album is their longest, lasting nine minutes longer than their previous, and such a near 180-degree change in sound cannot be ignored without commending them. There is definitely some risk-reward to factor in this record. While it may not be as memorable or, ultimately, impressive as their prior work or similar records by their closest peers, it pays to note that this is still a very fine record, and it will be interesting to see where they go with this new sound.
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