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Single Bullet Theory - "IV" (CD)

Single Bullet Theory - "IV" CD cover image

"IV" track listing:

1. Echoes of the Past
2. What Have I
3. Letting Go
4. Diabolical
5. Leviathan Smiles
6. Auctioneer of Souls
7. Hands of the Wicked
8. The Wake of Betrayal
9. Samsara

CD Bonus Tracks
1. Spirit Crusher (Death cover)
2. The Hurt That Never Ends

Reviewed by on October 26, 2011

"While some have already written Single Bullet Theory off as metalcore, nu metal or a 'bar band,' one can skim through 'IV' and discover the band’s diversity."

“IV” is a modern metal album in regards to many of the sounds that have emanated in the last two decades. Metal-Archives places Single Bullet Theory in the metalcore category, which seems far from the mark. The group doesn’t stress breakdowns to the extent of the average “core” band, although the album contains plenty of hard grooves. Matt DiFabio projects different vocal ranges, resembling Randy Blythe of Lamb of God during harsh moments. However, his clean vocals are more in line with today’s progressive scene and ‘80s metal. One could say he has more in common with Warrel Dane than Howard Jones.

DiFabio’s voice requires listeners that have an appreciation for multiple ranges and styles. I posted a YouTube video to the page of an old high school buddy thinking he would dig it because of his love for Pantera. He liked the guitar, but not the high vocals. At the same time, a fan of Metal Church and Sanctuary should enjoy the high pitches, but abhor the gravelly lows. “The Wake of Betrayal” may have shown enough Pantera-isms in its “New Level” style riffing for him to overlook the vocals.

Whether one prefers vocals on the right or left side of the spectrum, DiFabio’s range commands respect. Besides chorus lines that continually fire off into the brain's receptors, the choral parts on “Echoes of the Past” feature three layers. How often does a metal band create a one-man choir? Besides King Diamond, not too many artists have as many angles to their voice.

Single Bullet Theory also takes an industrialized slant at times. “Auctioneer of Souls” features a short, electrified intro before cutting to the all-out shred fest. “Samsara” runs on mechanized noises and Burton C. Bell goth-like vocal overtones. “Hands of the Wicked” mixes Fear Factory’s churning riffs with the mysticism of Eastern guitar harmonies.

One of the album’s bullet points includes “Auctioneer of Souls.” Containing 20 of today’s guitar gods, the nine minutes of solos becomes tedious after a few minutes, but it's interesting to hear such a wealth of talent show off their skills. Two of the bands I mentioned above, Nevermore (Jeff Loomis, Attila Voras, Curran Murphy) and King Diamond (Pete Blakk), are represented on this track. Producer James Murphy (Obituary, Testament) and Tim Roth (Into Eternity) are two other names among the din of sweeping arpeggios.

Matt Thompson of King Diamond joins the group on a cover of Death’s “Spirit Crusher.” The group makes this track its own: DiFabio combines his rough, throaty vociferation with shrill, falsetto pitches and vocal delay. Also, the Phazer effect creates a cool transition before fast parts. Where the group falters is in the production. Death’s version contained a much fuller sound, especially during the chorus. The fast, muffled bass-guitar combination during chorus parts does not stand out like the original.

While some have already written Single Bullet Theory off as metalcore, nu metal or a “bar band,” one can skim through “IV” and discover the band’s diversity. They are a half-thrash, groove, industrial, death metal, progressive, metalcore group. Single Bullet Theory can usher in the New Wave of American Groove Industrial Death Metal Progressive Metalcore, or NWOAGIDMPM for short (good luck remembering that). If more bands were willing to step out and experiment like Single Bullet Theory, then trends wouldn’t come and go with such ease.

Highs: Churning grooves, industrial sections and multiple vocal ranges.

Lows: The production would had benefitted from a cleaner mix.

Bottom line: It's always great to see a band mix it up, but "IV" requires listeners to free their minds from the confines of sub-genres.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 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)