Though I can’t explain it, many of my peers in this industry have expressed not being very fond of current frontman Antonio Palermo’s vocal approach. But can we give Alex Hofmann a break? He’s already recorded several albums with the band and he’s getting closer into his thirties. A man gets into a different phase of his life around that time, especially if he has a successful business; which I’m assuming he has. I surmise that Hofmann just wanted to move onto other things. Whatever the case might be, the band certainly aren’t the worse for it. Palermo might have a bit of a core touch, but he packs a potent set of howls which almost become scowls in some instances. There’s still a bit of the hardcore itch, but this approach has been watered down a bit in favor of a style that better fits the band. Andrew Baird’s often punishing drum acrobatics are still as precise as we’d expect a fine-tuned machine to be with Scott Corsairs riffs weaving in a few necessary melodies here and there. If you listen carefully, you may even hear some solos. It does seem to be a bit djent heavy and doesn’t quite feature the Japanese shmup melodies of The Flesh Prevails that I loved so much, but the process could have been a hell of a lot blander than what we’ve gotten here. At least I am hearing some melody and I’m grateful for it. The whispering approach doesn’t hurt vocally either, as Palermo doesn’t sound like he’s trying to mimic Maynard with the band avoiding coming off like a heftier version of Tool. Okay, so maybe there’s a touch of Maynard to be found in “Dopamine” but we’ll forgive them for it.
Even through the pounds of djent, at least Corsairs’ lead riffs have meaning and purpose, rather than just trying to sound as machine-like as possible. I get the whole needing to sound futuristic vibe, but I personally feel that Meshuggah went the wrong with all of that as the synthwave music that I listen to on a regular basis sounds far more mechanical than thick bass reverberations ever have. Even so, the process sets up a pleasant atmosphere that while may be chaotic in some instances, feels a bit warming to the ears and can even come off relaxing; especially when the band tone it down a bit to offer some necessary ambience. Don’t get me wrong, it does feel a bit core-laden this time around; but I wouldn’t throw Undying Light into the same throwaway piles that I would with so many other (insert sub-genre here) core acts. While I don’t think that anything will compare to the Japanese influenced melodies (regardless of whether or not they were aware of it) of The Flesh Prevails which I loved so much, but Metal Archives hated; I certainly can’t be upset with this performance. Maybe a nice Mega Man X cover would round the whole thing out, but you know how it is. I’ll take what I can get and that certainly isn’t a wash in this case. Don’t write these guys off just yet, as Fallujah proves that a slight change in the vocal department wasn’t enough to destroy them. It could have been far worse than this.
(10 Tracks, 46:00)