So in America, metalcore generally means breakdowns dripping with synth and a dude who can hit notes that Hayley Williams couldn’t reach without a ladder. In Australia, metalcore generally means the same as the American scene did seven years ago. It’s a far more straightforward, stripped-back metalcore that relies heavily on guitar-drive melodies and powerful harsh vocal lines, as well as breakdowns and two-step. There’s a bunch of bands that are following this ‘back to the roots’ technique, and now Perth natives Saviour are following suit with their second full-length, First Light to My Death Bed.
In all seriousness, these guys have created something remarkable. They have a very simple style, but they pull it off well, and that’s what makes it work. The breakdowns are tops, but the songs aren’t structured in a predictable manner. Rather than being thrown in there to cover for a lack of songwriting ability, the breakdowns are used as the driving force behind these songs. They actually succeed in driving the songs forward the same way that Meshuggah’s polyrhythmic style is the focal point of their songs.
There’s a lot of juxtaposition in this record, too. The songs transition between straight up metallic hardcore with harsh vocals spat out with pure, visceral hatred and slow, agonisingly crafted tempo shifts that add a slower, more considered depth to their songs. There’s also a haunting female vocalist (whose name I can’t for the life of me find anywhere) who lends her chops to several tracks. Her additions add a whole new dimension to the tracks, particularly opener “Undead” and the vengeful “Jaded” and simultaneously contrasts and complements vocalist Bryant Best’s delivery.
Of course, no record is perfect except Tool’s Lateralus, so let’s get stuck into the negatives. Best has a lot of variety in his vocal delivery. The dude’s a friggin’ beast. The problem is that he tends to favour his raspy shout, and this can get a bit draining after a while, in the same way that Tim Lambesis’ voice got a bit annoying on As I Lay Dying’s old stuff. He’s nowhere near as one-dimensional as Lambesis was, so that’s good. It must be said that Best’s voice suits Saviour’s style well, so he gets points there.
The other issue is that those female vocals just completely overshadow everything else on this album. She has the most hauntingly atmospheric tone in the world. Check the outro to “Jaded” and you’ll see what I mean. It’s kind of like how Louisa Burton is Make Them Suffer’s sound. Seriously, take Burton’s keyboard out of Neverbloom and it stops being arguably the best Australian metal album of all time and becomes bronze medal at best. Well, it’s the same with Saviour and those clean vocals.
Still, there are worse problems to have, and the simple fact is that Saviour has released an album that is a hell of a lot of fun. They’re not as unrelentingly heavy as Thy Art Is Murder, nor are they as technical as Northlane. They also haven’t quite got the melodies of In Hearts Wake or the colossal, haunting atmospheric presence of Make Them Suffer, but they’re not far off, either. They have a tonne of potential and First Light to My Death Bed is probably going to wind up being one of those “I knew them when…” albums that hardcore hipsters can use to piss off their friends in a couple of years, the bastards.