Chuck Schuldiner Project

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Versus the Collective

     Versus the Collective is somewhat frustrating to review, there's no convenient "benchmark" to compare them with, and reviewing a band without any benchmark for comparison usually ends with a list of esoteric adjectives (e.g. "the music sounds cement, the music sounds purple, the music sounds dangly"). So please bear with me through this.

     The most practical way I can describe Versus the Collective is by saying that they are effectively the lump sum of taking a so-so prog-core band, removing half of the the annoying, overused -core song elements (perhaps gang singing, pig squeals, sweep picking), replacing them with honest prog metal licks, and improving the other half of the "annoying, overused -core elements" (breakdowns, chugging, and alternating clean / heavy vocals or growls / shrieks) to a level where they are actually effective and enjoyable to listen to. Then you take this, and you dress it up with a punchy guitar and bass tone, and a distinctly "prog" timbre. I guess in a lot of ways the prog side of the sound is reminiscent of Necrophagist and the metalcore part of the sound seems to be derived more from The Dillinger Escape plan.

     Expatiating on the latter half of these song elements, Versus the Collective's effective use of the elements has to do with their limited use of them. Rather than just tossing in a "breakdown" for the sake of making the song heavy, Versus the Collective apparently looked over their songs, and adds them in where the song actually needs a change of pace, not where the song needs heaviness. The "chugging" equates more to slower, more punctual riffs, then to picking one open note over and over. Clean / heavy wise, Versus the Collective just has a good vocalist.
     So now that I've attempted to negate any negative connotations associated with the "prog-core" label, I can focus on what is, IMO, the high point on the album, the vocals. This vocalist is easily one of the better vocalists I've heard; he can go most of the way up into the "shrieking" range without tearing up your eardrums; he can deliver powerful lower growls with ease; and, he can cover most anything in between with "grace" as it applies to growls and screams. On the clean vocals he sounds a good deal like Scar Symmetry's vocalist, he has this emotional, ultra clean tone thats audibly pleasing on its own, not because of contrast to the rest of the song or the difficulty of going from screaming to clean vocals. Drums wise, the most notable aspect of Versus the Collective is less "complexity" than velocity and timing. At moments, the drums hit so fast, and with such timing that they sort of blend into the rest of the song.

     So in case I under-hyped this band in the above paragraphs, I'll be a little more blunt (and a lot less scientific); Versus the Collective is really damn good.

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