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As They Burn - "Will, Love, Life" (CD)

As They Burn - "Will, Love, Life" CD cover image

"Will, Love, Life" track listing:

1. Medicine 2.0 (4:13)
2. Origin (4:10)
3. Dream Collapse (3:27)
4. The Conscious Man (3:51)
5. Isis (3:54)
6. Frozen Vision (Part 1) (3:09)
7. Frozen Vision (Part 2) (2:19)
8. When Everything Falls Apart (3:49)
9. Z(h)ero (1:05)
10. F.R.E.A.K.S. (2:39)
11. Sons of Shiva (3:31)

Reviewed by on February 20, 2013

"The sophomore album avoids feeling like a placeholder record, and acts as a positive representation of the band as they become available to a larger audience."

Signing to Victory Records is just the beginning of the progress French death metal act As They Burn has made in the last few years. Adding in a keyboardist to the line up is also another big change that was initiated in the time between the band’s first album, “Aeon’s War,” and their latest, “Will, Love, Life.” The keyboards and machine-like sound effects are atmospheric boosts to their abundance of aggression. As They Burn has a style that should find appeal to young music listeners weaned on the likes of Born of Osiris and Oceano.

As They Burn has anger seething out of their groove-encrusted riffs and throaty screams. “Dream Collapse” and “When Everything Falls Apart” don’t stop the tirades of hostility the band falls into. Though the lack of innovation in the aggressive moments is obvious, they play it off with pose and agility. The tight song lengths ensure that there isn’t much that could have been cut down from these songs.

Melody can be an evil word to the typical metal band, but As They Burn messes around with this dynamic and gets some great moments out of it. Usually, it’s a brief reprise from the electric destruction that surrounds it, like in “Origin” and “Isis.” The vocals tone down to whispers and light tones, though they seem a little underpowered compared to the screams and wails. The band doesn’t get into progressive territory like Born of Osiris or The Faceless, instead complimenting the rage-filled anguish with a lulling numbness.

Keyboardist Bastien Jacquesson is the hero of the album, the member who knows when to stand out, and when to take a step back to allow the rest of the band to do their part. His contributions to the outro to “Sons of Shiva,” both parts of “Frozen Vision” and general background ambiance on the rest of the songs raise the album. His work should have been expanded upon a bit further, as it feels like there are wasted opportunities to use Jacquesson.

The two-part “Frozen Vision” is the high point of “Will, Love, Life,” where the band’s penance for moody progression is in full effect. It’s a stirring track, though it’s best when heard side-by-side, as one part doesn’t succeed without the other. The album slows down from this junction, including the bland “Z(h)ero” and “F.R.E.A.K.S.” The latter track is a stumbling point for an otherwise rock-steady group, sounding like a gross attempt at appealing to the Emmure-loving crowd (having their lead vocalist guest on the track is evidence of this).

Though “Will, Love, Life” stumbles on the last few songs, the first half has some strong material that avoids plunging into repetition or unoriginal directions. The groove that is infused into their death metal is easy to appreciate, and the way they push out melodic vibes opens up exciting possibilities for the music. “Will, Love, Life” comes off as the first taste of for what could come out of their next album. The sophomore album avoids feeling like a placeholder record, and acts as a positive representation of the band as they become available to a larger audience.

Highs: Doesn't buckle to the trends of modern deathcore, keyboards add layers to the music, melodic sensibility

Lows: Album dips in quality near the end, feels like the first step to something greater, melodic vocals are underpowered compared to the screams and wails

Bottom line: This French act is worth taking a gander at for those who enjoy modern death metal with a little groove and atmospheric keys involved.

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)