Clifton - We Never Change
Abacus Recordings
Melodic Death/Metalcore
10 songs (39'49)
Release year: 2006
Clifton, Abacus Recordings
Reviewed by Crims

Before listening to We Never Change, the debut CD from Utah’s Clifton a few things bothered me. Firstly, the name; when thinking of the name Clifton I’m reminded of a tall, lanky, Jamaican kid I went to public school with who shared this bands namesake. A bit of an odd visual image for a Metal band to invoke but hey, that’s what happens when you choose such a weird name. Secondly the song titles are ridiculous: Triple Belly Of Poo; Table Full Of Giggles; Sir Interuptsalot to name a few. Now, the song titles might be interesting if this band played really weird jazzy prog Metal, something akin to Spastic Ink. However, this band, musically, seems to be serious so you almost get the feeling they just chose song titles such as these for the sake of being different. It doesn’t really matter I suppose, since we don’t review song titles, we review music here.

The opening three songs left me somewhat indifferent despite a very intense beginning. Present in all three songs is a kind of pseudo Melodic Death style that everyone and their brother seem to be playing in the United States these days. The band could be labeled as Metalcore which would be mostly accurate but thankfully there aren’t that many hardcore elements, thus allowing the band to focus more on the Metal side of things. The problem with these songs are not the structures, or even the vocals, it’s the riffs and melodies. Clifton uses a style of riffing, popular among Metalcore bands and non-Metal bands like Bullet For My Valentine (to an extent). That is, the riffing usually starts off with triplets or straight palm muted chugging and then quickly goes into the higher note range to finish off the riff. The other main style of riffs is of the vaguely harmonic variety. Though it has its roots in Traditional Metal it’s been twisted in a new direction which you also commonly find in many Metalcore and American Metal bands (God Forbid as an example). The higher notes are supposed to invoke melody into the music and they sort of do it’s just not very interesting. Bands in Sweden have been doing this for the better part of the last 10 years. The difference is most Swedish versions of the chugging sections of riffs are at least distantly Thrash, and the melodies are interesting. Other bands also include melodic leads to compliment this style of riffing. Clifton does have a few really good melodic leads in their music but they are more in the vein of solo break near the end of a song rather than a driving force in the song structure. Since there are very few theme leads and every main riff is done in a similar style the songs blend together. During the first four listens of this CD I only realized the second song had started after it was almost done.

It wasn’t so much that the three opening tracks were bad. After all the song structures are decently done with some quality breaks which usually consist of heavy start and stop chugging with synchronized double bass. Thankfully this always isn’t the dreaded hardcore start and stop riffs (though every now and then they do get into that terrority). Also, the drumming is actually quite varied; never repeating the same pattern too often. In fact, this was a high-point of the band as the double bass runs felt aggressive and immediate, while the drum tempos changed often, often over the same guitar riff. It’s just that the riffs and thus the music overall weren’t all that exciting. Then the fourth song comes and everything changes (almost). Out of nowhere the band is suddenly playing legitimate Stoner Metal riffs. I had to listen to it about three times upon the first full CD listen just to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. Later on the in track listing the band combines the Metalcore, and almost Melodic Death Metal with the Stoner Metal riffs and you know what? It works really well and all of a sudden songs stop blending together, and the main riffs are a little more interesting since they now provide a contrast. I’m not really aware of any other bands that combine these two styles on a regular basis but Clifton have done it and done it well. While the music never quite slows to a doom pace, the tempos do drop from the usual breakneck speed the rest of the music is played at.

A Few other notable aspects of this CD are a strong production job. This is actually produced like a Melodic Death CD with subdued low-end with a concentration on vaguely raw riffs without any overproduction from any stand point. What amazes me is how heavy and thick the Stoner Metal riffs feel despite the lack of a strong low-end throughout the rest of the CD. I should also mention that the vocals are entirely harsh with no traces of clean singing. Though I couldn’t understand a word the singer was “singing” the mid-range harsh style fits more at home with the Swedish Melodic Death bands then with American Metalcore bands who tend to put more of a scream into their style.

Clifton has hit on a nice combination of Stoner Metal and Metalcore on a few songs. I would like to see Clifton make this a mainstay in every song, rather than have it show up in about a quarter of the CD. Regardless, the other riffs need work as the melodies were not catchy nor as memorable as they should be and not enough sections made me head bang (despite the music being fast). The fact that the Stoner Metal riffs are actually quite good helps mask the deficiencies the other riffs have, which is the downfall of the songs which do not feature any Stoner Metal influences. I recommend this CD to fans of the style who enjoys a very broad scope of the Metalcore genre (is it really that broad though?). For Metal fans that have a passing interest in Metalcore and prefer something that is completely Metal devoid of any “core” this may be a band that you can add to your list of ok Metalcore bands that probably also include Shadows Fall and maybe Darkest Hour. Try before you buy though as opinions may vary depending on how much or how little you like non-Stoner Metal riffs and ‘core aspects.

Killing Songs :
Feels Like Guts, Hangin With Nature, Walters Look Of Conviction
Crims quoted 69 / 100
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