For Fans Of
In the season one finale of Sam Esmail‘s brilliantly subversive Mr. Robot, protagonist Elliot Alderson (performed wonderfully by Rami Malek) is delivered a Fight Club-like rant from the titular Mr Robot (played by Christian Slater) about how poisoned and just how far gone our modern society has become. The impassioned speech goes like this:
“Is any of it real? I mean, look at this. Look at it! A world built on fantasy. Synthetic emotions in the form of pills. Psychological warfare in the form of advertising. Mind-altering chemicals in the form of… food! Brainwashing seminars in the form of media. Controlled isolated bubbles in the form of social networks. Real? You want to talk about reality? We haven’t lived in anything remotely close to it since the turn of the century. We turned it off, took out the batteries, snacked on a bag of GMOs while we tossed the remnants in the ever-expanding Dumpster of the human condition. We live in branded houses trademarked by corporations built on bipolar numbers jumping up and down on digital displays, hypnotizing us into the biggest slumber mankind has ever seen. You have to dig pretty deep, kiddo, before you can find anything real. We live in a kingdom of bullshit.”
No, don’t fret; you haven’t stumbled upon an article about the new Northlane record, friendo – I already did that a while back. That’s merely a quote that I immediately thought of upon first hearing ‘Digital Ritual’; the latest record from Brisbane metal outfit, As Paradise Falls. As I think such ideas and topics in media are almost unavoidable when discussing said record. For as this new album’s moniker suggests, ‘Digital Ritual’ is a critical take on the “rituals”, i.e. the ideals and the stranglehold grip that our man-made digital era has over our thoughts and the tangible world. While the lyrics on ‘Digital Ritual‘ are never as specifically scathing as Slater’s poignant if somewhat heavy-handed rant, this album lyrically and thematically deals with the anticipated and unexpected issues that our world’s over reliance on technology and ever-expanding digital presence could result in. Whether it be in interpersonal communication, how we view other people, how messages and beliefs are distorted, humanity’s doomed course for moral and ethical destruction, and so on. (I suppose the real irony here is that I wrote this piece up on my MacBook Pro while listening to this album on my phone. The machines have most certainly won, I assure you).
Song’s like ‘The Ultimate Consumer’, ‘Star Blind‘, ‘Glory To The Server’, and ‘Captive To The Creation’ and their respective lyrics help to drive this theme home further, as does the hard-hitting nature of this album’s djenty instrumentals. Of course, such a topic isn’t breaking new thematic ground for heavy music but it’s a concept that fits well enough with such music; what with As Paradise Falls’ solid yet cold sonic aesthetic, rigidly tight drumming, sharp, calculated guitar riffs and the slick mix. However, outside of this album’s overarching concept, this record is more than just another release for As Paradise Falls; it’s the start of a whole new era entirely for this Aussie metal band.
First of all, while As Paradise Falls flirt with varying sub-genres of metal’s wide umbrella on this LP, their prior generic deathcore style has been ditched in large quantities for a cleaner, more metalcore-orientated approach overall. One that while at times generic gets occasionally painted with 90’s and 2000’s hard rock/alt-metal undertones and a handful of decent proggy moments to boot. (See the middle eight of ‘Captive To The Creation‘ for both of those elements as just one example). And it works well enough, even when the quintet sticks to being solely instrumental on the title track or even when their deathcore past captures up to them for brief sections on ‘Balance‘ and ‘Hysteria‘.
Secondly, this record also marks the first time that new vocalist Shaun Coar has stepped into the fray, and it’s his added, seasoned influence that predicates these grungy, alt-metal sounding moments on ‘Glory To The Server‘, the melodic and spacier intro of ‘Reborn‘, as well as the cleaner choruses on ‘Hysteria‘ and ‘Star Blind‘. Now, these lighter musical shades are welcomed as it not only creates a more musically interesting palette than their past releases but also adds a sense of dynamic to APF’s sound; something that wasn’t evident in their sound prior to this record. While I don’t think that the band have created quite the varied and expansive sub-genre-laden release they could have, merely coming close has helped this record greatly. After all, much like my personal relationship with Chelsea Grin and Alpha Wolf until their respective recent records, I cared very little for APF’s older releases. But because of ‘Digital Ritual‘, there’s now some genuine investment on my end and hopefully, they continue this sub-genre jumping to keep their sound from getting boxed in moving forwards.
Finally, another key point of discussion is that this new release marks a massive lineup change for the band, one that’s born out of loss. During the recording process of this record at the high-profile Karma Sound Studios with Shane Edwards in Thailand, guitarist Glenn Barry sadly and very suddenly passed away. In soldering on from his passing, the band have left many of Barry’s parts throughout the record, acting as a memento of sorts for friends, family, fans and the band members alike. Admittedly, Barry didn’t really have that much of a signature style to his no doubt solid playing, and it’s hard to tell what exact parts are his compared to the band’s other guitarists. Yet it’s the thought here that really counts.
Furthermore, and I know I will sound like an utterly insensitive twat saying this, but a dead band mate should not lead to blindly blowing smoke and talking up a band’s new release; something that I do feel other writers have somewhat succumbed to with their own reviews. Because while As Paradise Falls have nobly pushed through the immense hardship of such a close-to-home loss, while they’ve thankfully ditched their generic deathcore sounds, and while they do indeed have something to say on this record, this latest ritual just isn’t up to the full scratch I feel it could be. With just the finest merging of the right metal sub-genres, the right hooks, and the right amount of riffs, As Paradise Falls could take their cold and calculatingly powerful brand of metal in a spectacular direction. However, as it stands currently on ‘Digital Ritual‘, and even with a solid new lineup, As Paradise Falls have come close yet no cigar.
Restart that download and get the installation going again, lads, it’s almost there.
1. Digital Ritual
3. Star Blind
4. The Ultimate Consumer
5. Automated Sacrifice
6. Glory To The Server
8. Dead Message
10. Pride & Disgrace
11. Captive To The Creation