Slaves to the rhythm step it up for their second offering
It's been around two years or so since Melbourne tech metallers Five Star Prison Cell impressed many with their debut slab, The Complete First Season. However, it didn't go without criticism either, with Adam Glynn being the target at times for being a little too Mike Patton-esque in the vocal department, and to be fair, a comparison couldn't be avoided either especially with Glynn attesting that it was his intention to some degree. Musically, guitarist Marek Holain, bassist Cameron Macdonald and drummer Marc Whitworth blur the lines somewhere between Meshuggah, Mr. Bungle, Fantômas and The Dillinger Escape Plan, behind Glynn's madman vocals, all of which come together in the group's sophomore effort, Slaves Of Virgo.
Once the hollow, heavily effected sounds of the intro to Do The World A Favour go by the way side, it is immediately obvious that Five Star's key elements have all been stepped up several notches. The levels of intensity and musicianship within the music are set high early on, and certainly way above that of The Complete First Season. The sound, courtesy once again of famed Aussie metal producer dw Norton, is fatter and heavier than ever before, and it's the thickness of it that enhances the excellence and overall dynamics of songs such as the schizophrenic Obtuse: The Essense Of Indifference, the slightly System Of A Down sounding Deloris, and the frantic Army Of The Vigilant. One aspect that is noticeably down in the mix though is Glynn's vocals. It can be viewed as being both a good and a bad thing. If you prefer prominent vocals then you might be a tad disappointed by this, but the up side is that his vocals sound like their own instrument more so than just signalling “hey I'm the singer”, if that makes sense. Whilst the drop is noticeable, Glynn's vocals still work well as he spews forth with more of his own identity this time and a less Patton to them, although there are still some Patton-esque moments.
The transition from the severe barrage of Pinholes to the rhythmic grooves of Decree Nisi is a brutally stark contrast that carries well in the overall flow of the album before the haunting, sub one minute instrumental passage, titled Asleep In The House Of Fables, offers some well earned breathing space that gives you enough time to prepare for the album's final aural assault. It's a case of no rest for the wicked as, ironically, one of the album's most complex and challenging tracks is also the one with the shortest and simplest name, M - a relentless charge of time changes and Glynn's madman vocals over another sonic wall of distortion. From there the album switches gears to the haunting and beautiful The Rise And Fall Of Red Sparrows, which features guest vocals from Glynn's Coitus Bund partner in crime, Rebekah Chapman, on a track that has a strong Eastern influence that could also be seen as System Of A Down like. It's quite possibly the most accessible track on Slaves Of Virgo and one that shows a different side to the group; one that works just as well as the extreme math metal style of the title track, Slaves Of Virgo, and the slow, straight forward and final dirge of The Harridan Marathon.
Slaves Of Virgo takes everything from The Complete First Season and multiplies it. It's a more intense, much darker, more dynamic, more challenging and an infinitely more complex album than The Complete First Season. Put simply, Slaves Of Virgo is The Complete First Season on speed. If you liked what you heard on The Complete First Season, then just wait til you hear Slaves Of Virgo - this one's off the hook!
(Faultline Records/Stomp Distribution)