“Sumeriancore” was an interesting genre. A highly specific brand of progressive metalcore that coincided with the rise of Sumerian Records, lead by prominent bands on that label, it was very popular for a few years and then dissolved into djent shortly after. Born of Osiris were at the forefront of this, if not the main driving force. Being part of the original “big 4” of the genre along with label mates Veil of Maya, The Faceless and After the Burial, they’ve inspired many other artists and headlined many tours. They’ve had some wildly acclaimed albums, and some that are borderline ridiculed. A decade after their debut, where are they now? Where is the genre? And what’s their future? That’s what we’re here to discuss today.
Before Born of Osiris, there was DiminisheD. Then Yourheartengraved. Then Rosecrance. If these names are unfamiliar to you, they were the different monikers Born of Osiris went through until they settled on their final name. They started in 2003 in Illinois, playing a post-hardcore influenced brand of metalcore. Their original sound was rather weird and disjointed. Featuring clean vocals, melodic riffs and syncopation, it’s almost entirely unrecognizable when compared to how the band are known to sound, but one can dig a bit deeper to see the ties.
They’ve always had a syncopated twist to their playing, and that innovative use of rhythm would come to define the genre. They’ve released many demos before their first release with their final name. Tracing through these releases, it’s pretty clear how their sound evolved into what we would come to know them for. Their debut release, The New Reign was released in 2007 to much acclaim. It consisted almost entirely of reworked versions of songs from their older releases. Despite this, the material was significantly ahead of its time and was the blueprint for a genre. Diminished, syncopated riffs, a unique use of rhythmic displacement and cleverly placed keyboards, all in a package that boils down prog and technical death metal into 3-4 minute songs. What’s not to love? It was an instant hit in the scene, spawning many copycats. Sumerian Records was pushed to the forefront as a result of a combination of The New Reign, The Faceless’s Akeldama, Veil of Maya’s The Common Man’s Collapse and After the Burial’s Rareform. The key to the success of their sound can mainly be boiled down to Cameron Losch. Cameron, who is the only founding member still in the band, the drummer, and the main songwriter for many of their releases, is the lynchpin of the band. His drumming style defines their sound, and he’s written many of their classic riffs. The other two mainstays of the band, vocalist Ronnie Canizaro and keyboardist/vocalist Joe Buras have been in the band since their first demo as well. Ronnie’s vocal style is instantly recognizable, and his patterns over the complex rhythms of Cameron have also been a staple of their sound. Joe’s presence was initially less, with keys being present only occasionally and his vocals being relegated to a backing role. Still, this trio has been at the heart of Born of Osiris, and without them we wouldn’t have the band, and perhaps even the genre.
With the success they’ve seen so far, they quickly moved on to making a full-length release. The band went through line-up changes, settling on the skeleton crew that they maintain to this day. Lee McKinney joined on guitars, and David Darocha joined on bass. With Lee’s presence, there was an increased focus on lead guitars and melody in general. A Higher Place was released in 2009, and the reception was mixed. The production on the album didn’t do the writing justice, and the writing itself focused heavily on progressive elements. It doubled down on most aspects of The New Reign, with more syncopation and more complexity. This approach put the band in an awkward position, with their appeal to metalcore audiences reduced due to the more niche, experimental sound they’ve utilized. This didn’t really slow the band’s momentum too much, but it was the first mixed reception to a follow-up by the “big four”. The Faceless had abandoned the genre by then, moving on to technical death metal with Planetary Duality, which is considered a classic. In the following years, Veil of Maya would release [id] to decent reception, and After the Burial released In Dreams to mixed reception. Had the genre stalled? There were many second-wave bands, like The Contortionist, Within the Ruins and more. Still, Born of Osiris seemed to be the most successful band in the genre. But between The New Reign and A Higher Place, a shift in the scene happened. Periphery came to the spotlight, popularizing djent. There was a lot of cross-over appeal between the two genres, and the lines got blurred as artists started to implement influences from both.
Meanwhile, Cameron and Lee were demoing tracks for a new release. Their soundclick profile had three demos, tracks that would later turn into “Devastate” and “Shaping the Masterpiece” (and one remains unreleased to this day) on their 2011 release The Discovery. Soon after, Jason Richardson, student and replacement of Chris Storey from All Shall Perish joined the band. While his writing input was limited to a few songs, his influence on the album was perceived to be huge, as the album was a change in direction from the previous material. The songwriting had pivoted yet again, mostly focusing on a base rhythmic format imbued by melodic leads and more prominent keyboards. This is where Joe Buras started to shine, with his backing vocals settling into a trade-off dynamic with Ronnie and his synth usage became a larger part of the sound. Originally, the album was to be produced by Misha Mansoor of Periphery, and a 3-track demo leaked ahead of its release (this would later be included on an extended edition of the album). The final version of the album was mixed by Jason Suecof and it released in 2011. The Discovery was the band’s most acclaimed and successful full-length, and it only served to further their popularity. The album had more memorable moments, choruses and overall a more consistent songwriting process. While some lamented the loss of the band’s more experimental direction, the quality of the album was undeniable.
A year after The Discovery, Jason Richardson left the band. This was considered to be a big blow to the band, as the more lead-oriented playing on the recent album was attributed mostly to him. There were some unflattering live videos as Lee struggled to play some of their solos, and the conversation regarding the band had started to turn negative. The presence of Sumeriancore was increasingly fading, as djent became the new direction to pursue for metalcore artists with a more progressive bent. Everything seemed to be moving very fast. With Periphery getting signed to Sumerian Records, Born of Osiris were no longer the biggest name in the game anymore. Clearly, the band needed to shake things up. In 2013, they released a single, “M∆chine”, from their soon-to-be-released album “Tomorrow We Die ∆live”. To many, this marked the biggest change in direction between albums for the band so far. A significant increase in keyboard presence and reduction in guitar technicality were the starkest distinctions. The fact that guitars were relegated mostly to playing open string rhythm patterns seemed to reinforce the perception that Jason Richardson’s lead playing was what made The Discovery what it is. Which isn’t entirely true, considering he wasn’t involved with the entire process and Cameron and Lee’s writing were all over the album. What we saw here was a band trying to figure out their place. They were emphasizing intricate keyboard work, which, in their minds, seemed to necessitate the guitars taking a back seat. In the end, the reception to the album was mixed. The band didn’t lose headlining spots, but they were losing mindshare. Long-term fans who came to them for the technical music were left disappointed. Even the most complex songs on the album, like “Illusionist”, were still not on the level of previous releases. This definitely did damage to the image of the band.
The question is, could they recover? Does a band 4 albums into their career, in a declining genre, took a line-up blow, and released an album that disappointed dedicated fans have a way back in? Perhaps. To some, they’re just a lost cause. To others, the band can redeem themselves and return to their glory days. Out of nowhere, in 2015, they started releasing singles from their upcoming release Soul Sphere. Surprisingly, they were great. Marking a return to a more technical style yet retaining elements from their latest, it’s the best way the band could have chosen to move forward. Taking the rhythmic and technical experimentation from their first release, polished and melodic writing from The Discovery, and increased emphasis on keys and vocal trade-offs from Tomorrow We Die Alive, Soul Sphere was the best albums fans could hope for given the climate. For those already checked out, this might not have been enticing enough. The genre is basically non-existent at this point, and new blood isn’t flowing in. But the band that can be credited with defining the genre is finally back in top form. Perhaps the damage is undone after all.
The band have done a great job of consistently releasing a new album every two years. By that logic, 2017 was due for a new release. Being the decaversary of the band’s first release, they decided to re-record it with modern production and release it to commemorate their and the label’s success over the years. While the original New Reign was perfectly fine, the new version was a fantastic improvement that made the album sound like it always should. The keys were entirely redone and given more prominence as per the band’s modern sound. It even included a retooled song from their yourheartengraved days, “Glorious Day”. Titled Eternal Reign, this album is a celebration of the genre’s beginnings. It still sounds fresh and unmatched, and it would be something worth paying attention to even if it released for the first time today. The reception was appropriately positive. This goes to show that Born of Osiris still have potential, there’s still room to explore in this sound and they know that. In the end, this is a band that’s still young, still kicking, and still have their unique sound. It will be exciting to see where they take their sound in two years, now that they’ve come full circle, embraced their roots, and can move forward with renewed purpose.
“I love my squad, I love my fucking gang, I could do this shit until the day I die”