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Dirge Within - "Force Fed Lies" (CD)

Dirge Within - "Force Fed Lies" CD cover image

"Force Fed Lies" track listing:

1. Self Medicate
2. Forever The Martyr
3. Force Fed Lies
4. Confession
5. Spit
6. New Disease
7. Last Goodbye
8. As I Walk
9. Inhuman
10. Saint of Humanity
11. Complacency
12. Eulogy

Reviewed by on August 17, 2009

"Dirge Within’s whole package offers something more than another rote piece of metal."

Shaun Glass has experience at the ends of the metal spectrum. He played for six years in Broken Hope, a black and death metal band which was somewhat of a pioneer in American extreme metal. He followed that up by being a founding member of mainstream hard-rock act SOiL in 1997. His third project is Dirge Within. The band’s first album drops on September 1st. Glass is leading Dirge Within’s march toward the middle, successfully melding the disparate influences from his 15 year career in metal into a solid, if unspectacular, mix.

The title track of the album is easily the standout track. The main riff features the touch of dissonance on the base chords and melody that is a hallmark of American black and death metal. The intro also features a melodic guitar solo, serving as a nice counterpoint to the underlying chord. The main verse, however, is a mid-tempo and down tuned groove straight from radio-friendly hard rock, but thankfully it doesn’t stick around long. Another melodic solo jumps in halfway through, is interspersed with gang “ooo” vocals, and lasts for almost 1/3 of the song. The down tuned groove comes back to finish things off. Despite the tired main riff, the extreme metal influences give the song extra vitality which is missing in the more mainstream sections of the song, and the entire album.

It would be easy to call the band a metalcore act, as so many modern American metal bands are lumped into that genre nowadays. Heavy and down tuned guitars, the combination of clean and dirty vocals, crisp modern production, and fierce guitar solos all point toward metalcore. The problem with that classification is that there is little, if any, punk or hardcore elements in the music. When the band gets away from its radio-friendly hard rock formula, they tend to feature thrash, black, and death elements rather than punk and hardcore. While thrash and punk are certainly related, they are executed quite differently and it shows on “Force Fed Lies.” Most of the solos are straight from thrash with melodic fret board runs that move away from the central musical theme, and most tempo changes are the fast, thrash-based bridge riffs. The band does not have any of the higher register machine gun guitar riffs of punk and hardcore, and the dirty vocals are deeper growls and bellows, rather than the shrieks and screams of punk and hardcore.

Band leader Glass shows his experience as the band’s aural sound is top notch. Each instrument - even the bass - is crisp and easily heard, the song arrangements are tight, and there is little extraneous material added over the music. He also assembled a strong band, knowing good musical partners when he heard them. Vocalist Jerms got in when he handed Glass a CD of his old band at a SOiL show. His dirty vocals are strong and have good range and emotion; Jerms’ clean vocals have a good tone, but not much range. Glass and fellow guitarist Matthew Szlachta spit out high-flying riffs over the pounding rhythm guitar and rolling bass. Drummer Paz delivers a solid performance as well, particularly with his floor and tom-toms, but sometimes relies on his snare too much.

Dirge Within often relies on tried and tired metal formulas, however, which reduces the album’s appeal, making the whole thing predictable. “Confession” has a quiet, clean guitar line over a softly growled vocal, which leads into an inspiring and melodic bridge. The intro is finished by the whispered vocal “Breath” that has no musical accompaniment. The band fires off full force from there. A similar approach is used for “New Disease.” Layered guitars are used intermittently on “As I Walk” and “Inhuman” to put emphasis on particularly emotional portions of the song.

These imitative elements aren’t necessarily bad, as the argument can be made that every heavy metal song is a rip-off of Black Sabbath. The problem with “Force Fed Lies” is that when the band departs from their hard rock groove-vocal methods, the different elements sound like a ready-made song pulled from a computer and inserted at the proper moment. It seems as though the band isn’t ready or willing to just let their best and most aggressive stuff fly, rather opting for a controlled and composed structure that is already packaged for the masses. When they do lean toward the more extreme end of metal, they shine. “Spit” is an aggressive thrash romp, while “Last Goodbye” features Paz’s best work on the album and almost gets to death-style tremolo picking and blast beats a few times before falling back into the groove. “Saint of Humanity” has some of Jerms’ best vocals, deep and raw bellows that drive the weak and terrified music before it.

With all that in mind, Dirge Within’s whole package offers something more than another rote piece of metal. Strong playing, good songwriting, and teases of real aggression and emotion are frequent guests on “Force Fed Lies.” Hopefully Dirge Within’s follow-up album will rely on the band’s inner talents and emotion, rather than pulling back to make sure they cover their bases for someone else.

Highs: The playing and songwriting are tight; the title track is a fantastic easy standout.

Lows: The band has trouble creating quality and consistent music away from their core radio-friendly sound.

Bottom line: A promising debut from a band looking for its identity.

Rated 3.0 out of 5 skulls
3.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)