Sampled voices in music are hard to integrate properly, especially when they’re the first thing anybody is going to hear of your album; it can be tough for a band to properly find something that conveys the feeling they want to give across in their music, and sometimes the sample can contradict the truth of the album. Case in point: “it was a lazy, fucking, shit-ass job!” says the sampled voice at the beginning of Bushwhacker’s newest outing, Dilemma. Thankfully for us, it wasn’t, and this is album is a nice romp through progressive death metal that builds off of a melodic death metal framework to create punchy, visceral music that can shrug off some writing faults by virtue of its energy and engaging production.
The basis of Bushwhacker’s sound is a brand of progressive death metal that is highly reminiscent in form to Cormorant: oddly-timed riffing and off-kilter rhythms abound here, driven by the melodic sensibilities of melodic death metal, but the tunes feel oddly atonal at times, and some of the harmonic choices are strange to the ear. Of course, it’s all intentional, and Bushwhacker does a fantastic job of keeping the listener’s attention with their energetic formula, but at times, the tunage does feel a little too samey; rarely are there any of the sorts of interludes and genre-switching freakouts that are, at this point, almost sonically synonymous with the idea of prog metal. That’s not to say that there are no other genres present on The False Dilemma, though, as there are numerous riffs that seem to pull their influence from black metal, sludge metal, and post-metal, but even here, the melodic death metal influence is so overpowering that it becomes obvious throughout the album that the band struggles to escape it. Do they need to escape it? Well, no, not necessarily, but a bit more outside influences certainly wouldn’t hurt Bushwhacker and take most of the songwriting here from good up to great. Tracks like the post-y interlude “Cheewhat Giant” and the atmospheric slow-burner “The Return” are fantastic, but aren’t enough of a breather to save the album from dragging occasionally.
The production definitely helps draw the listener in: full and robust, every part feels fleshed out. The drums have a certain meaty punch to them that really brings a physical element to The False Dilemma’s sound, and the guitar tones sit at the perfect amount of distortion, crunchy enough to be aggressive but not so dirty that they lose clarity in the mix. When it’s audible, the bass is properly grumbly and low, weighty and substantive. Make no mistake, the production elevates the final package here, and there are plenty who will be able to forgive the writing faults because of how good this album sounds.
Bottom line, without such appropriate production, The False Dilemma would be a decent album, but the album’s sound is so fitting for the music that this is certainly worth one or two listens based on that alone. After that, Bushwhacker may enrapture some with their sound, but it’s certainly worth noting that a little more diversity in sound would go a long way for these guys. Of course, they’ve got plenty of time in their future, and it’s clear they have the potential, so if they don’t do it for you here, be sure not to write them off just yet.