There’s a problem a lot of people have in the Djent scene. It’s something people don’t really like to talk about; they’re embarrassed about it and think they’re the only ones but it’s actually a very common problem and you can find it in almost any style of music. The problem is this: you like a few Djenty Metalcore or Deathcore bands like Born of Osiris, Veil Of Maya or After The Burial and want to find more without wading through the vast sewers of unoriginal medio-core. I’m not going to name names, anybody reading this review will be aware of the kind of bands I’m talking about. Bad Deathcore bands with twangy syncopated sections they think make them Djent. As the Djent sound becomes more widely accepted it’s begun seeping into other genres without bands deliberately trying to incorporate ‘Djenty bits’ into their music. Stam1na, the Finnish Thrash-Metal-kinda band have a few syncopated djenty sounding riffs in their new material; Iwrestledabearonce have more than a hint of the poly-groove about them in their latest album and unfortunately instead of dying a natural death, Deathcore has begun adding low pitch, syncopated grooves to its repertoire of breakdowns and… breakdowns.
Sumeriancore used to be a useful tag to describe the good bands with genuinely interesting Djent riffs and more creative Deathcore breakdowns but since Asking Alexandria and Lower than Atlantis became successful Sumerian Records have become more associated with annoying scene kids than with creative and interesting Djenty-Deathcore. Now shuffling through Sumerian Records’ Youtube uploads you find Veil of Maya mixed in with bands like Upon a Burning Body. Upon a Burning Body are perhaps more annoying than Asking Alexandria in that the video-single for their latest album “Red, White, Green” features a very catchy, low tuned, syncopated riff. This riff actually motivated me to buy their album. Big mistake. The rest of this album could be described as ‘Partycore’, ‘Brocore’ or my personal favourite ‘Douchebagcore’. It’s unoriginal, uninteresting and to be honest pretty embarrassing to listen to. So that’s the problem. Syncopated riffs with a djenty tone are becoming a standard feature of the Deathcore genre and this makes it difficult to find genuinely interesting Deathcore-Djent hybrids. And you thought I wasn’t going to name names.
Fortunately though there are still a number of good Djenty-Deathcore bands on Sumerian records and Structures is one of them. What Structures offer is very different from Veil of Maya, Born of Osiris and After the Burial. Veil of Maya offer a fairly straightforward Melodic Death Metal inspired version of Deathcore but with thoughtful riffs and polymetric grooves; Born of Osiris are more focussed on layers and melody while After the Burial are full on groove. Structures, however, offer a manic, intense and frantic listening experience. Ironically, song structure doesn’t really exist in this album but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. There are primitive Hardcore riffs in odd time signatures, breakdowns which are actually well thought out and interesting, syncopated djent riffs and chaotic transitions. All of these follow one after the other in a seemingly random order but it all seems to fit together nicely.
The album begins with a massive breakdown and some creepy guitar melodies in the background. There are deep death growls as well as higher pitched screams and shouts. This is a standard Deathcore opener but it’s catchy and a lot more interesting than other Deathcore ‘intro’ tracks following the same formula.
The second track and first proper ‘song’ is ‘Hydroplaning’. Every feature I described earlier is present on this track. There are breakdowns, syncopation, disorienting transitions and primitive Hardcore riffs. For me this is one of the two standout tracks on the album, the other being ‘Clockwork’. It’s difficult to articulate what is different about this track or indeed the entire album which makes it so much better than other Deathcore music with a Djenty inclination. The closest I can get to pinpointing what makes it so much better is simply quality. You can tell that a lot of thought has been put into the breakdowns and riffs on this album, where other bands may just take a random jerky rhythm and stick it in the middle of a track as a breakdown these guys seem to have put some effort into coming up with interesting breakdowns which actually add to the song rather than filling a hole in a song which listeners now expect to be filled with a breakdown.
The next few tracks follow in a similar fashion but a few highlights include a very interesting riff found in the middle of‘Paralyzed’ which seems to appear out of nowhere and then disappear just when you figure out when to nod your head and the surprisingly good clean vocals at the end of the same track. In a scene where clean vocals are almost always controversial and divisive it seems pointless to spend much time talking about them so I will say only this; if you don’t like the kind of clean vocals found in most ‘core’ bands you will probably find parts of this album totally unlistenable. If, however, you can get past the cleans you will be rewarded as the clean sections are genuinely interesting and provide a nice break from the chaos of the rest of the album.
The next standout track is ‘Clockwork’. The formula for this song is roughly the same as the previous tracks until about halfway through when we are given a treat. Alex Erian of Despised Icon and Ion Dissonance’s Kevin McCaughey provide guest vocals. Rather than just screaming a few lines over a few bars which could be from any other song on the album, half the song is dominated by riffs that show a very clear Despised Icon influence. This is a fantastic example of the attention to detail which is present on this album. The guest appearances are so well thought out it just has to make you smile when you hear it.
The following track “Relapse; Signs.” also features guest vocals, this time from Frankie Palmeri of Emmure. Again, when the guest vocals come in the music is tailored to fit the vocalist with an Emmure inspired section filling the last 20 seconds of the track.
Two more similar tracks follow until we get to the album’s finale and title track “/” unfortunately this song just doesn’t do it for me. It begins with clean vocals and a section which is just a little too ‘pop-punk’ for my and probably most people reading this review’s taste. After this rather annoying beginning the track continues unspectacularly with the same format as the previous tracks. I have to admit, I was expecting something rather more impressive to make up for the disappointing start to the song and when the song and album came to an end I did feel cheated by the title track. Nevertheless in subsequent playthroughs of the album I treated “I.N.T.E.N.T” as the final track and it was a much more satisfying, if abruptly ended, listen.
Overall this album is good but not great. Though the chaotic song-structure suits the combination of styles Structures are presenting I found that after a while it became too chaotic and aside from “Hydroplaning”, “Clockwork” and the disappointing “/” it is almost impossible to remember the title of the song you are listening too because the distillation of riffs into different songs is so arbitrary. Another criticism of this album is the muddy production. Everything sounds a little bit fuzzy and unclear, this could be deliberate to compliment the chaotic song structure but I think it goes a little too far and makes the music unnecessarily difficult to keep up with.
Despite these criticisms Structures are clearly a thoughtful and technically talented group of musicians and given time and experience I’m convinced they will acknowledge and learn from the weaknesses of their debut full-length and release a follow up to “Divided By” which will win over many of their detractors.