REVIEW: THE BROWNING – “Isolation”
I’m someone that is very particular about their metalcore. Spending a lot of time while I was younger listening to bands like Atreyu, Killswitch Engage and I Killed the Prom Queen, there is a particular style of metalcore that I like. Nevertheless, I’m also someone that likes to try new things and having heard repeatedly of The Browning before without actually listening to them, I was pleasantly surprised when I got hold of their new album Isolation.
The album on a whole plays out like a cross between the electronic masterpieces of a band like I See Stars and Crossfaith, combined with the aural audacity of bands like Winds of Plague to create an electronic infused sound that blends with the harshness embraced in most black metal.It is in this fusion that Isolation stands alone as a unique collection of songs, the styles and sounds of which are only fringed upon by other artists.
Now I’m going to be honest, I’m a fan of samples in music. There’s something about the electro-trance sound that, when it’s done so right, just makes a song really pop. The Browning absolutely nail this on album opener “Cryosleep”, with the samples in this song standing prominently on their own, but also blend seamlessly into the mix, making it an absolutely fierce album opener. They hit the same mark again on “Dragon” and “Pathologic”,and it’s songs like these that really reinforce just how unique the sound of the band is.
Atmospherically, Isolation hits all the right notes, and from the outset does indeed make you feel like you are stuck in your own isolation. Songs like “Phantom Dancer, Fallout” and “Hex” each invoke introspective feelings of unease and seclusion, and when combined with more upbeat tracks like “Pure Evil”, “Cryosleep” and “Pathologic” take this a step further by making you question your own rational thoughts. Whether intended or not, this album constantly draws you into this isolated state and then delivers a one-two punch that makes you question everything you know. Whether this was the intended outcome for the album or not, it certainly makes Isolation an apt title.
Musically this is a sound album, and I know I have gone on about the prominence of the samples, but the placement of breakdowns and the tonal delivery of the guitars is amazing, with even the drumming sounding immense on certain tracks. Each song really shines with its structures, with the placements of breakdowns, quieter passages and ambient sections each invoking different feelings and different moments. It’s in these areas that the album is a clear winner.
I wanted to not like, but love this album, I really did. There is so much to in here that makes it such a great offering, but for me the album couldn’t get over that final hurdle. This wasn’t anything musical, and in fact purely comes down to personal preference and that is what I found to be monotonous vocal delivery. I’m not saying that the vocal style used on the album isn’t effective, because it does hit like a truck and stylistically fits the music and lyrics, but the one drawback for me was that it seemed like the tonal delivery for the whole album was the same. I would have liked to have seen more tonal range in the fierce growls which would have really have amplified this album to the next level.For a few songs this harshness of the delivery is effective, but after you get about five songs into the album it all sounds similar to what you have already heard. This is only personal preference and shouldn’t take away from the album as a whole, because the vocal delivery does suit the music and lyrics.
Should you pick up this album? Well, the album has a lot of substance and is beautifully crafted towards people that enjoy metalcore or these electronic-infused types of metal. This makes it accessible in that regard as it combines these styles perfectly creating a sound that is very distinct and inimitable. It’s only flaw comes from the monotonous nature of the vocal delivery, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if your planning on indulging in this album in small bites. If you are after something in the same vein as Crossfaith, Feed Her to the Sharks; or something that is just completely outside of your normal metalcore comfort zone, then this is definitely an album you should check out.