The Faceless – Autotheism (2012)

When I was first getting into heavier music several years ago, I stumbled upon The Faceless. I checked out some tracks on YouTube and “An Autopsy” from the band’s first album, Akeldama, piqued my curiosity. It would be The Faceless’s second album, Planetary Duality, however, that would really catch my attention and go on to become one of my all-time favorite albums. The atmosphere, musicianship, technicality, and brutality of that record really blew me away when I first heard it and it is still and album that is played pretty frequently in my music library. Fast forward to 2012 and The Faceless is set to release their third full-length album, Autotheism. Expectations and hopes are, understandably, sky-high among many metal fans. So, now that Autotheism is finally upon us, the question is: “has the wait been worth it?” Well, both yes and no.

Over the past several years, the band has evolved into The Michael Keene Experience an entirely new version of The Faceless. Evan Brewer was added to the band when Brandon Giffin left to join Cynic as a touring member. Geoffrey Ficco replaced Derek “Demon Carcass” Rydquist as the band’s vocalist. Wes Hauch joined The Faceless as a rhythm guitarist upon the departure of Steve Jones. This leaves Michael Keene as the only founding member left in the band and Lyle Cooper as the only other member of the band to appear on Planetary Duality. With all of those personnel changes, a shift in sound was pretty much inevitable. With Autotheism, The Faceless has opted for a more progressive sound. Some elements, however, are better realized than others.

Autotheism‘s most glaring flaw is the clean vocals. Keene’s Cleans™ are not very good and they’re splattered all over the album. Being lead guitarist wasn’t enough for Keene, evidently, so he had to become the band’s lead vocalist as well. This is extremely unfortunate because Geoff Ficco’s vocals are very impressive. Ficco delivers all of the best vocal moments on Autotheism and there are only two clean vocal parts that are anywhere near memorable. I don’t have a problem with clean vocals in metal if they’re done well (e.g. Opeth, Katatonia, Fleshgod Apocalypse, etc.), but the clean vocals on Autotheism wear thin very quickly. The clean vocals on Akeldama and Planetary Duality were tasteful because they were sparse and merely served as accents. They fall short, however, when they take precedence over the death metal vocals.

The “experimental” bits on Autotheism are also pretty horrific. I understand the need for progression, but adding crying babies, carnival music, and singing children to a death metal band is probably never a good idea. “Autotheism Movement II: Create” starts off as a blistering tech death piece, but it is interrupted shortly after it starts by a sound clip of babies crying. This clip serves absolutely no purpose other than to annoy the listener. The next track, “Autotheism Movement III: Deconsecrate,” is my least favorite track on the album due to the carnival music and children singing “la la la la” behind Keene’s lackluster clean vocals. The song is supposed to be about desecration and the deconstruction of old religious beliefs. It should be a dark subject, but the singing children essentially make it sound like the Sesame Street soundtrack. The sax solo that appears later in the track is also unnecessary and seems like it was just added so the band could be experimental for the sake of being experimental.

Despite the bad clean vocals and unnecessary “experimental” elements, Autotheism is largely enjoyable. The instrumentation is absolutely superb and every song has its moments. The Faceless really shows what they are capable of when they stop trying to be Opeth and play some tech death. “Autotheism Movement II: Emancipate” (minus the crying babies), “Hymn of Sanity,” “Accelerated Evolution,” and “The Eidolon Reality” are all very good. Autotheism would have benefited from a stronger presence from Evan Brewer, but that doesn’t make the instrumentation any less incredible. As I mentioned earlier, Geoff Ficco’s vocal performance is very good and adds a lot to the music when he gets a chance to show off his growls. I was skeptical when Derek Rydquist announced his departure from the band last year, but Ficco has really stepped up to the plate and delivered a solid performance.

The Faceless certainly made some missteps with Autotheism and it’s not quite as good as their previous albums, but it’s nice to see them putting out music again. This review may make it seem like I think Autotheism is awful, but I think it is, overall, an enjoyable album. I’ve listened to it many times since it was released and I can see myself listening to it plenty of times in the future. I hope The Faceless’s next album has more tech death and less “experimental” stuff, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what they have in store for us in the future.

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By Mike O’Hara ~ Me Gusta Reviews