Who doesn’t know the little stickers the labels put on less known bands’ albums? “The most intense act since …” “The most shocking debut since …” “Fans of ABC will kill for this” I often find these sales approaches irritating, but most importantly, they often has little to do with what’s inside the package. Watch Them Die self-titled debut bears a similar tag, and that raised my caution flag. Mixture of Bay Area thrash, grindcore, crust, punk and metal … Hmm, is this even going to be edible? “Flies buzzing over a dead corpse” samples and the screaming ‘core vocals into the opener Torn Pages, my conservative mind said:” Just another nu-metal – hardcore crossover. This one would be easy to criticize all over and toss aside”. Well, mea culpa (my fault for those not familiar with Latin) for the asinine assumption. For once the label was right – the act is intense. And I am glad I stuck with it and gave Watch Them Die a well-deserving chance. This album should not be tossed aside easily.
Total stranger to Oakland-based Watch Them Die I will give you a quick recap of what the back of the promo says. Band members come from highly influential underground bands (I frankly know none of them), the band is notorious for its intense live performances and the music style is a mixture of the aforementioned genres. I will add my own 2 cents that this album is angry, violent and highly captivating.
I can’t tell you whether Watch Them Die are rabid enough for punk or fast enough for grindcore. In my opinion, what they play is an extreme metal hybrid and they do it well. The vocals range from screamy hardcore to higher pitched shrieks to lower growl with hints of clean voice in the opener Torn Pages and female phrases in the closer Resurrection. Not surprising considering four out of five band members (excluding drummer Ira Harris) contribute to vocal parts. I would be hard pressed to say where lead vocalist Pat Vigil does it all alone, or another lead vocalist/guitarist Greg Valencia jumps in, or where Jase Freakley, guitar, and Pat Mello, bass, back them up. Watch Them Die also have some samples and spoken words.
Their riffs can be downtuned and stomping, fast and chaotic or death march structured (The Struggle) at the same time. Like an extreme metronome the band hesitates between hardcore and much faster grind on Torn Pages. It can start with slower death metal on The Struggle only to speed up and throw us a catchy, very melodic, verse and chorus. Fast and furious Sadist Ways is one groovy and thrashy headbanging delight with very slight tempo variations throughout. The closer, Resurrection, my favorite track on the album, has everything in it, from quiet electroacoustic sections to dense melodic death metal displays, dual guitar parts and unbelievable groove and catchiness.
While the band would not win a technicality contest, Watch Them Die does not have an oversimplified approach to songwriting, and what they do requires a high level of skill. Just as some hardcore albums are repetitive and mind-numbingly boring Watch Them Die is everything but repetitive. Every song stands pretty strongly on its own and is a sum of total, sometimes surprisingly different, parts. Very ungrindlike the songs are long, sometimes bordering on 8 minutes. They also have so many variations in them, the attention never wanes. From thrash riffs Watch Them Die can move to a buzzsaw lead with its dissonant harmony in an instant. In fact, such buzzsaw guitar sound reminded me a lot of Swedish scene of the early to mid 90s.
If you are in a mood to hear a more extreme version of Shadows Fall, less hardcore oriented Killswitch Engage, punky Dismember and just as intense a band as The Haunted try some Watch Them Die on. It might surprise you how convincingly the angst and violence can be musically depicted, although personally I find some of the lyrical concepts unappealing to me. This will never play on MTV(2), but younger American audience is ripe for Watch Them Die. Watch Them Die is an interesting phenomenon in a way that they should appeal to those already moshing in the pit, and to those, just like yours truly here, standing to the side of it, enjoying the catchiness and groove of the music.
Killing Songs :
The Struggle, Sadist Ways, Resurrection
|Alex quoted 74 / 100|
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