The Faceless - Planetary Duality - 2008

Extreme Technical "Death Metal" is a rising genre, though not all together a new thing. Bands like Death, Morbid Angel, Cynic, and then ultimately Nile slashed and burned the ground clearing the way for a new generation of Death shredders to grow and flourish.

It's no surprise how brutal and talented this generation of Extremists are, and the Faceless are no exception. They rip and shed time signatures like dead skin, with drum work so technical and insane that many question if the drummer is a human at all. Guitars and bass, yes even bass, are so impressive as to make the rest of us want to put down our instruments for good. The dual vocal attack style also works well for them without feeling too gimmicky.

Their 2006 debut, Akeldama, was a pleasant surprise for me, and it stayed on my stereo for a solid week. Ultimately even though I enjoyed the album, I found songwriting it's biggest weakness. I was still very excited to hear their followup.

The first thing that stands out about Planetary Duality is the vastly improved production. Even in moments of extreme discordance, beats a blasting, every instrument is clear, again even the bass. The vocals are high enough to take predominance without drowning out the rest of the band.

The Faceless seem less afraid to allow a riff time to develop than they did on Akeldama, which definitely adds the songs. Song structures have also become a bit more clear, that's not to say they slump on the musicianship or craziness within a song, but actual song writing seems to take precedence here. Gone are the incessant start/stops that extreme metal bands seemed to favor over the last couple of years, and again I think this is to the album's benefit. The songs seem to flow much better. And of course, musicianship is the centerpiece here - these guys are insane.

There are also more moments on this album with clean vocals, ala Opeth, which overall seems to work to varying degrees. The multiple vocal layers and styles on this album help to keep the vocal work on each song interesting. The Faceless motto seems to be "keep it fresh" and they do a good job of that.

Overall I would say that Planetary Duality is a step forward from Akeldama in terms of song writing maturity and production. And although they have definitely tuned the brutality down (Nile = 10, Akeldama = 8.5, this album is maybe a 7) This is a solid album, start to finish, and I would recommend it to any fan of technical death metal.

Key Tracks:
Prison Born - I may be alone here, but there is just something fantastic about a 2 minute song that burns away your flesh. This album opener does just that, and weighs in at 1:58
XenoChrist - If you needed to introduce someone to the Faceless, this is the song you would use. It smokes and weighs in at 5:01
Planetary Duality II: A Prophecies Fruition - I'm starting to detect a trend here... as with Akeldama (Horizons of Chaos) We have another epic two-parter. This is the longest song on the album, at 5:27, and it is a dense, dark, and brooding thing, not unlike some Lovecraftian creature creeping from the depths. The rifts are generally slower than the rest of the album, but the vocals are also very diverse.

Low Points:
Planetary Duality I: Hideous Revelation - I get it, I really do. The sample was kind of cool, but I gotta be honest, I just didn't feel it worked, or was even needed. It kind of felt like an after thought to me. Part II - Awesome. Part I - not so much.

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