Rings Of Saturn - Lugal Ki En [Technical Deathcore]
This album asks an interesting question about the state of technical death metal today - which takes centrestage, skill or composition?
For those who haven't been familiar with the extreme metal scene over the last few years, Rings Of Saturn is band that became notorious for alleged cheating in the studio. Former members have come out to expose the band's secrets, accusing main guitarist and songwriter Lucas Mann of using Guitar Pro II to speed up his insane riffs and sweeps on the album. While he continues to defend his skills, the resulting sharp, computerized sound is definitely outstanding. It is obvious that many of the album's sounds have been tempered with upon listening (for this latest album, since I won't bother about the previous two for now), but does that impair the listening experience of the album?
Whether or not the musicians have been honest, it's hard to deny the fantastic compositions on the album.. Lucas Mann's pacing and direction are breaths of fresh air in this overcrowded sub-genre, and the alien themes shine brightly in every song. The music comes across as passionate and downright inspired (especially the fantastic instrumental in the middle and at the end of the album). Sure, genre problems are abundant here, I am not too fond of deathcore riffage and breakdowns, which has always been detrimental to my appreciation of bands of this ilk, but the sweeps, codas, guitar solos and the fantastic rhythm section truly cement the songs here. Every song has its own different feel and motif, which is a lot more than I can say of the interchangeable songs in most of today's technical death metal scene.
So how would one go about analyzing the album? People do value honesty, but even if the band members did one day admit that the whole thing has been a fluke, and they have been computer wizards the whole time, what then? Sure, half the thrill of this genre is showmanship, but the band makes up for this with much better songwriting than most bands out there. It is by no means a perfect album even by that merit alone (cue production complains, DR4, argh), but it is nonetheless, a strong album. The band is still in its early stages (they are like, what, 4 years old?), and they are still far from their prime years ahead.
Anyway, I am not going to go ahead with any numerical rating for the album since I doubt a number can ever confirm my full opinion on this band for now. Perhaps, after a closer listen to their previous albums. The vocals are still pretty generic, if serviceable. The melodies are infectious, and the closing instrumental 'The Heavens Have Fallen' could give even the best of Animals As Leaders' a run for their money. The band's compositions are unique, but it keeps production and vocal approach, and the annoying use of breakdowns pretty close to mainstream standards. Doing away with these could make this the perfect album of the year for me.