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Guilt By Association - "Chapter 1: End Of Story" (CD/EP)

Guilt By Association - "Chapter 1: End Of Story" CD/EP cover image

"Chapter 1: End Of Story" track listing:

1. Fix
2. Communication
3. Beautiful in Red
4. Before Goodbye
5. End of Story

Reviewed by on November 20, 2009

"Screaming vocals get mixed in with mainstream rock and even occasionally a pop vibe in 'Chapter 1: End of Story,' which creates either a stepping stone into heavier music or a valid destination for anyone who likes radio friendly music."

Extreme metal may have started as an act of radical rebellion against the established order, but over the past three decades it has slowly infiltrated the mainstream. While it may bother some metal fans that their beloved genre has been watered down to reach a wider audience, all metal enthusiasts should realize that more exposure is good for the entire genre. Elitists beware, as Guilt By Association doesn’t care one whit about being “true,” “kvlt,” or even “metal.” Screaming vocals get mixed in with mainstream rock and even occasionally a pop vibe in “Chapter 1: End of Story,” which creates either a stepping stone into heavier music or a valid destination for anyone who likes radio-friendly music.

The title “Chapter 1: End of Story” is a reference to all the line-up changes and band names the group has gone through over the last 10 years before settling on their core sound. It should be noted that core sound leans much more towards the hard rock side than the metal side, but each song still has something to offer a metal fan. The music in general is based in melancholy guitar work, with brief bursts of more upbeat sounds, which creates a strong atmosphere similar to bands like Alice in Chains or Tool.

Most of the vocals to be found on the EP are melodic clean singing that immediately brings to mind big name bands that get loads of radio play. The singing is surprisingly good for an unknown band, as the male vocalist has an exceptional range and hits quite a few notes that had the potential to fail spectacularly. Every now and again there are backing female vocals thrown in for a fuller range of sounds. The screaming and death growls make up the smallest portion of the vocal work, but they are a welcome addition when they get to make brief appearances. When the singing goes melodic there are a number of filters applied to make them mesh better with the other instruments.

The level of effects that went into the vocals leads into what could be the biggest turn off for people who like their music more extreme. “Chapter 1: End of Story” has an absolutely spectacular production for an underground band, and that production may be too good. Each song has a slick polish and all the sounds are dropped exactly into the appropriate places. Normally that would be a good thing, but in some instances it seems like the band spent more time trying to figure out how to make their songs fit a formula that could be popular than they did making music from the heart. The perfect mixture and placement of poppy songs, slow and mournful tracks, and energetic material lends credence to the idea that the music was crafted to be placed on movie soundtracks or top 40 charts. That may not be a problem for anyone who enjoys hard rock as much as anything else, but the black and death metal crowd will probably see it as a critical issue.

Each song has an intriguing beginning that keeps the music from blending together too much. “Fix” uses echoing guitar parts, “Communication” features a muted drum intro that gradually builds up and gives off a strong Godsmack vibe, and “End of Story” goes for an ethereal and flowing mood. “Beautiful in Red” is the calmest song on the EP, using acoustic guitars and crooning vocals. The song is absolutely spot on for what it tries to do, being a sad love tune that doesn’t go overboard and hit whiny or annoying.

Guilt By Association knows exactly how they want to sound and they’ve crafted an EP that seems more like a established band than an unknown act. They probably won’t find much of a following among the crowd that prefers blast beats and death growls, but anybody who wants a blend of metal with rock and pop should definitely give them a listen.

Highs: Perfect production, nice variation between tracks, occasional harsh vocals.

Lows: Sometimes sound like they were trying to create a radio hit rather than just making music, the music may be too mainstream for some metal fans.

Bottom line: A debut EP that sounds a bit like Tool or Alice in Chains going in a more mainstream direction, but with a few growls for good measure.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

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)