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Born Of Osiris - "A Higher Place" (CD)

Born Of Osiris - "A Higher Place" CD cover image

"A Higher Place" track listing:

1. Rebirth
2. Elimination
3. The Accountable
4. Now Arise
5. Live Like I’m Real
6. Starved
7. Exist
8. Put to Rest
9. A Descent
10. A Higher Place
11. An Ascent
12. Thrive
13. Faces of Death

Reviewed by on October 14, 2009

"'A Higher Place' is a smorgasbord of success and failure, swinging from fantastic moments of melody, brutality, and composition to portions that are best described as a dissonant mess."

Born of Osiris released their first album “The New Reign” in 2007, which garnered interest but mixed critical reception. Their brand of technical deathcore had potential, but also seemed quite routine. Now the band has come back two years later with “A Higher Place,” and true to the album’s name, the music has gotten better. The first and most noticeable shift is that most of the breakdowns are replaced by melody. But there are other, more subtle things the band does to move higher.

The album begins with the instrumental track “Rebirth” which effectively takes up where “The New Reign” left off –a haunting keyboard atmosphere layered with multiple elements and melodies. Then the album breaks into “Elimination,” made up of angular guitar riffs, pounding drums and bellowed growls. The technical death metal is back in force and it looks like we are in for more of the same. But then the music stops abruptly, and where the breakdown once was now there is fantastic melody. The entire band backs this musical spring, like a flower growing in a nuclear wasteland. The melody is not forgotten after it is presented, and carries through the rest of the track as a simple piano sprinkled over the rest of the death metal.

But beyond this surprise there is more than just a heightened sense of melody among the madness. The band revels in the progressive nature of their music, and they play that end to full effect. Based on death metal, those sections are filled with changing time signatures, odd guitar and drum fills, shifts and turns all over the place, and many seemingly random elements that are actually quite deliberate. Born of Osiris intersperses this progressive strain with the aforementioned melodies, sometimes building from within and sometimes appearing out of nowhere.

The band’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. The music often gets muddled in its complexity. The band is mostly facing inward, playing for themselves, seeing how far they can take any piece of musical thought without regard to how it actually sounds as a whole. “Live Like I’m Real” begins with a schizophrenic section with many time signatures in just under one minute, abruptly changes to a jazz-styled jam, then back to the time-changing death. Galloping rhythms are interspersed with syncopated chugs at one point, another melody, then something else completely. Meanwhile Ronnie Canizaro is bellowing and screaming over the whole thing. Three minutes front to back and no one has any idea what happened as we waded through the spaghetti bowl.

But when it works, the results are almost too good to be true. The straightforward technical death metal of “Starved” bangs on for a while before transitioning into an easy jazz groove. The transition is so seamless it’s fantastic. The crown jewel of the album, “Now Arise,” combines easy guitar melodies, keyboard fills, and blast beats to form fantastic melodic deathcore that never loses focus. The song ends with a syncopated, almost hip-hop section where Canizaro really brings out his fangs, and upon repeated listens it is clear this beat has been cleverly bubbling from the beginning. Is this the death metal version of “Bring Da Noise?” Maybe, but it works, and fantastically well at that.

“A Higher Place” is a smorgasbord of success and failure, swinging from fantastic moments of melody, brutality, and composition to portions that are best described as a dissonant mess. In the end there is enough good here to make the album as a whole a fair success. It is plain to see where this band is headed as they continue to refine their progressive-technical-melodic-death-metal sound; hopefully the addition of guitar whiz Tosin Abasi (Reflux, Animals as Leaders) to the ranks before this summer’s Summer Slaughter Tour will help them focus on melding the varied aspects of the music into consistent quality.

Highs: “Now Arise” could end up being a top 10 metal song of the year.

Lows: Sometimes the band creates a progressive mess instead of a song.

Bottom line: Wildly inconsistent album has enough sublime sections to be a solid overall effort.

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)