Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Still Remains - The Serpent CD Review

Last year Steve Evetts helped produce a fabulous release in Suck Out the Poison by He is Legend. He helped He is Legend take their already established unique brand of metalcore and add to it a strong southern rock influence. It gave the band a new outlook and their sound a fresh facelift. After having worked with He is Legend, Evetts moved on to work with Still Remains on producing The Serpent, however, I could swear he thought he was still working with He is Legend.

The first time through this album, what’s going to stick out quite strongly is the heavy, heavy southern rock influence that has been introduced into Still Remains’ brand of European metal. In some songs you’ll have a hard time recognizing that this is the same band. A lot of the smooth, heavily produced Gothenburg riffs have been replaced by a more raw, metalcore approach. The vocals have a whiskey soaked, grainy tone that will remind you of Maylene and the Sons of Disaster. It’s quite the transition and one that will, no doubt, not sit well with many fans.

Putting aside any discussion about the band’s transformation for the moment, is The Serpent worth your money? Well… sort of. Southern metalcore has had some extremely solid releases in the last year’s time, namely great releases from the aforementioned He is Legend and Maylene and the Sons of Disaster. There's also a new album from Every Time I Die on the horizon that is sure to garner a healthy amount of attention as well. Still Remains do manage to show up some bands who have recently tried to make the southern metalcore transition (I'm looking at you, The Showdown), which leaves the band in the middle of no man’s land, really.

Running through the album there are many peaks and valleys with some songs being truly amazing while others feel forced and out of place. “The Serpent” sets the album up to be epic with focused keyboards, a building intro, and powerful drumming leading into “The Wax Walls” which, truth be told, feels like only a slight departure for the band with more of a gallop than they’ve used before, but still used in that Still Remains way.

It’s not until you hit the middle of the album that you start running into some questionable tracks. “Maria” is a metalcore power ballad, assuming you can imagine that combination without too much head scratching. “Dancing with the Enemy” is glossy as all get out and will fit in on any modern rock radio station being that it is undeniably bouncy and catchy, but just like one of those giant pixie stix you ate as a kid, it’s great when you’re downing it, but you’ll feel empty and sick later on. The album also ends on a couple of slight downers in “An Undesired Reunion” and “Avalanche”. The first shows Still Remains taking on a more straight forward hard rock feel and the second is the obligatory metal song that fades out with light acoustics to end the album.

To the band’s credit, however, despite the change in their sound and the somewhat suspect songwriting in spots, this is still a worthy album to pick up if you’re a fan of the band or the genre. The mix of well placed and managed keyboards into this southern Gothenburg metalcore concoction that Still Remains has cooked up works well just as often as it doesn’t and even when it doesn’t, at least it doesn’t flat out suck — it just feels awkward.

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