Burnt By The Sun
Heart of Darkness

Ahhh… the final album epilogue, how it pains the reviewer. Do we judge the album by the higher standard of the career ending kiss-off, or as just another brick in what has been nothing if not a solid wall? Perhaps best to start off with the context-setting history, as while it was Burnt By the Sun which made these four men underground household names, it was their previous projects which sparked the imaginations of the scene, coagulating into a super-group in the midst of a metalcore zeitgeist which ended up with more staying power than any of those previous projects individually, while certainly living up to, if never quite exceeding the insane hype surrounding their formation. Cult experimental death-grinders Human Remains provided the back end via bassist Teddy Patterson & current Muncipal Waste, former Discordance Axis (along with a million other bands) phenom Dave Witte. Witte also played drums in a fast and pissed hardcore band called Black Army Jacket, who’s John Adubato joined in on guitar, and vocalist Mike Oleander rounded out the band, boasting an impressive resume of mid-90’s metallic hardcore (Nora, Endeavor).  

The results of such a collaboration could never have produced any of the variety of sounds which many who anticipated their initial releases might have no doubt imagined would be forthcoming. Instead, with a nod to their predecessors, BBTS put their collective heads down and produced a rumbling monolith of steamrolling metalcore, tutoring the muscular meathead metal of that bygone basketball jersey wearing era and dressing it to impress those more enamoured with the ambitious technical aspects of their contemporaries in The Dillinger Escape Plan, Botch and Candiria. Somewhat akin to Coalesce, in that they attempted to split the difference between the visceral and the intellectual, the group created music that had both a base heaviness and an appeal for a more mature and discriminating audience.  

So we find ourselves inside Heart of Darkness, within which these four intrepid souls basically reunite after six years hiatus. While as somewhat of a former insider, I can’t help but to skeptically pick up the whiff of some element of third album contract fulfillment going on here, within literally the first second gut-punch of “Inner Station”, any such scent is brutally overpowered with the oderous force of a fat, sweaty man-beast somewhere in the pits of a New Jersey mosh. Oleander’s now multi-layered vocals are an immediate highlight, the time-off has obviously done him some good and he is rhythmically and tonally on top of his game, particularly on “F-Unit”. The same song reveals that he has lost none if his incisive critical lyricism in the age of Obama, even if such critiques are mostly inherited from the last administration, as befits any band who’s entire existence was carried out within the confines of Dick Cheney’s America. Track after track, Adubato’s rubberband riffing ramps up the intensity of Witte’s seamlessly meticulous battering ram as Patterson swiftly shifts back and forth in support of each. Like “You Will Move” on their debut EP, “There Will Be Blood” is more a sadly unfulfilled prophecy of never witnessing this material live rather than simply a film reference with its furious momentum and simply monstrous breakdowns. 

The balance of the material is equally kick-ass, with fellow Jersey boy, Dim Mak’s Scott Ruth guest-harmonizing (?!) on “Rust – Future Primitive”, and with the songs leading up to and including the grand finale “The Wolves Are Running” approximating the unrelenting brutality of Misery Index, the band that for all intents and purposes effectively replaced BBTS on the Relapse roster. In the end there is one last epic breakdown, yet there are no regrets, nothing left unsaid. All that is left is the legacy of four incredibly talented musicians who came, saw, conquered and moved on, veterans of a bygone era for whom their music shall serves as their monument. In the words of the almighty Bolt Thrower, “We will remember them”. 

“We will remember them”.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by John Gnesin
September 14th, 2009

Comments

  1. Commented by: Scott

    Nice review, John. Also, as an “insider”, and part of the “family”, this has been quite an amazing record to consider everything (families, miles, personalities, time) surrounding it. I am certainly proud of this group of musicians for the time and commitment put into this new recording. Not many bands can come this close to deliver extreme metal nirvana.


  2. Commented by: fightingmike

    I love this band, mostly because they never sacrificed being catchy for the sake of being heavier or more brutal, and they have stuck to that motto here. yeah, there are a few weak or less memorable tracks on here, but the awesome songs greatly outway them. The best songs on here(There Will Be Blood, Goliath, The Wolves are Coming) comepletly blow me away with their catchy riffs and grooves.


  3. Commented by: Scott Alisoglu

    Easy Top 10 selection for me


  4. Commented by: Sandwiches

    “misery index, the band who for all intents and purposes effectively replaced bbts on the relapse roster.”
    ummm what the fuck? I like both bands but that was one weird comparison for sure.


  5. Commented by: Chevalier Mal Fet

    Sandwiches – stomp-y, chugging mix of metal and hardcore with heavily political, anti-establishment lyrics is the common ground between the two.

    Not trying to compare them more directly than that musically, more saying replaced them in terms of fitting a niche on the roster.


  6. Commented by: D. carsten

    pretty awesome, love the new songs


  7. Commented by: vegard

    great review, spot on as far as i’m concerned!


  8. Commented by: krustster

    yeah I agree on the Misery Index comparison, did you just mean that they are more popular now or what? Because otherwise, I don’t see the connection.


  9. Commented by: Blog › Teeth of the Divine Staff Picks of 2009 › Teeth of the Divine

    […] Great Misdirect, Bloodhorse – Horizoner, Buried Inside – Spoils of Failure, Burnt By the Sun – Heart of Darkness, Converge – Axe to Fall, Dysrhythmia – Psychic Maps, Giant Squid – The Ichythologist, Jesu […]


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