American deathcore band Within the Ruins released their 5th studio album earlier this month called Halfway Human. Halfway Human was released via E1 Music and Long Branch Records on the 3rd of March.
Within the Ruins consists of Tim Goergen on vocals with backing vocals and bass duties performed by Paolo Galang. Joe Cocchi is on guitars and Kevin McGuill is on drums. Halfway Human is the first Within the Ruins record to feature Paolo Galang who only joined in 2015. He replaces Andrew Tate and becomes the bands 5th bassist to date. Halfway Human marks a bit of a change for the band with the addition of clean vocals, mainly from Paolo, but also from Tim.
This isn’t a Suicide Silence switch in style though and instead is just a little sprinkling of something different while maintaining their recognisable features. Those features include death metal vocals, breakdowns and furious drumming but also more progressive elements in off beat rhythms and experimental guitar leads and soloing.
The outcome is some really enjoyable music, if the first two singles are anything to go by. I liked the first single, Death of the Rockstar, a lot and absolutely adored the second, Beautiful Agony. Beautiful Agony still gets a load of playtime from me today actually.
Halfway Human is a reasonably long album at over 51 minutes and it has 11 tracks on it. Instantly I was a little confused by album opener Shape-Shifter as, after a little guitar intro, it kicks into a riff that is pretty much identical to Beautiful Agony. I had to check what song I was listening too. It is only during the verses but it is really, really similar. Aside from that fault, it just isn’t the greatest opener when compared to what follows. It has a great solo and the choruses are pretty cool, showcasing clean vocals backing growled vocals that sounds so good. It is just a little bit disjointed and messy sounding in the verses.
One thing I absolutely love about this album though is the tones used. The high and tight sounding lead guitar is wonderful ear candy. The drums have a strong, tapping sound to them. The bass has a loose, distorted sound and vocally, whether clean or otherwise, it sounds powerful and full. The album has been mixed and mastered expertly.
There is some really solid, heavy riffing on the album as well. This will please long term fans and new listeners alike. Songs like Bittersweet start to blisteringly fast drumming, roared vocals and a fast riff that will destroy a mosh pit. Absolution is the same, with a more progressive riff at the beginning that switches into a furiously fast section with growled vocals and fast drums. Ivory Tower has a brilliant start, in the same vein. It has an echoed riff and muffled drum sound for a few bars before exploding into life and playing the same riff at full volume.
My favourite part of Halfway Human though are the experimental lead guitar solos and leads that are absolutely everywhere. There is a brilliant high pitched, slower solo in Death of a Rockstar. Incomplete Harmony has a great section of guitar work with rhythmic drumming and vocals near the end. Bittersweet has another fantastic slow solo with backing from slow thumping drums. Absolution has a faster solo that comes in at the end of the second chorus and then another slightly odd, but interesting guitar line near the end that sounds like video game music.
The best though, is on Beautiful Agony which is a solo that I absolutely adore. It is fast, passionate and is backed by brilliant drumming. Even better still though is the huge drawn out guitar line used to end Beautiful Agony. It is an exceptionally well written and brilliantly played piece of music.
Not only because of wonderful guitar work, there are a few tracks that really stand out. One is obviously Beautiful Agony. Another is Objective Reality which has a very different sound. With cleanly sung, echoed vocals over an organ/piano like effect. It kicks into a heavy beat with fast drumming and shredding but keeps the clean singing style. It’s really good. It switches to heavy vocals after a while and has a cool guitar section with the use of muted notes. The choruses return to the clean singing style again though the music stays heavy. It ends with a viciously heavy breakdown and then switches to almost silence other than a fading cleanly sung line.
Sky Splitter utilises the same style too, well almost, it has brutally heavy verses and cleanly sung choruses which use heavy vocals as backing. It’s a great sound, the two vocal styles in unison. Album closer Treadstone is another strong song. It is probably the heaviest song on the album with viciously fast verses and a chorus that raises the drumming pace even further. It has a small clean singing section before another heavy verse and a fast solo.
More than anything else on this album, though, what stands out is creativity and experimentation. For almost all of it, it works to create a slightly mad, but ultimately interesting slab of metal but there are moments within that sound a little off to me. There isn’t a single song I don’t like something about, but there are songs with sections I don’t like. I don’t like how similar the riff in Shape-Shifter is to Beautiful Agony. Incomplete Harmony has a small section where all instruments stop playing and we just have a synth effect that wouldn’t have been missed.
Ataxia IV has some weird sounding guitar effects that, I think, sound video game like, almost Nintendocore or something which I don’t love. Objective Reality has an oddly timed guitar line that seems to be fighting the drum rhythm rather than embracing it during the verse.
The thing is, for all these moments I am not keen on, they are quickly followed by something I love. For example, the synth section of Incomplete Harmony, which I don’t like, is followed immediately by one of the best solos on the album.
I think Halfway Human is one of the most interesting listens I have had for a while. It is very creative. At times it is technical and progressive but at other times it is just good heavy metal. Metal to bang your head too. Within the Ruins have obviously put a lot of energy into the album. It shines through and, for the most part, it works brilliantly. The added clean vocals have taken their songs up a notch and I always admire bands who don’t want to stand still. It doesn’t always work out but here, it has worked very well.
Halfway Human is a very good metal album. It is so jam packed full of ideas that sometimes they can become a little confusing but those moments are rare. Instead you, mostly, get an album made up of clever musicianship and strong vocals which utilise multiple styles and holds the listeners attention.
Halfway Human is out now and can be purchased from all the usual record stores and streaming services. You can also pick it up from Long Branch Records along with some nice packages including t-shirts and the like. Check out Within the Ruins on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more information on them and future releases too.
- The Final Score - 8.5/108.5/10