Umbra Vitae
Shadow of Life

Jacob Bannon. Sean Martin. Mike McKenzie. Greg Weeks. Jon Rice. A musical collective combining parts of Converge, Wear Your Wounds, Twitching Tongues, Hatebreed, The Red Chord, Stomach Earth, Job For A Cowboy, and Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats together under one banner.

So, rather than waste any more time talking about the checkered history of supergroups, the weight of expectations and the perils that come with trying to meet them – let’s get right to the chase.

Is this any good?

Well, the short answer is – sure. Of course there’s good to be found here. That’s too stacked a lineup of quality artists and musicians for the outcome to have turned completely sour. So, does this meet *DUN DUN DUN* expectations?

Well, the answer is, again, sure – inasmuch as, when you look at that collection of musicians and their combined resumes, the product they’ve put out here pretty much sounds about right. Indeed, you really do hear bits and pieces of all the different pieces coming together in a generally death metal-ish manner – the chaotic and tech-y “core” elements of The Red Chord and Job For A Cowboy, the brutal and hefty crunch of a Hatebreed attack, the creative, oddball quirks of Uncle Acid and Converge, and woven together with Jacob Bannon’s signature artistic lyricism.

There are a few truly inspired moments to be found here, for sure. After a brief intro “Decadence Dissolves” launches into a really neat, wobbly, almost surf-like riff over some death metal blasting that just sounds really cool. The all-out burst on “Return to Zero” really throttles you with brute-force trauma that would make any self-respecting metalhead grin. Everything here is certainly pulled off with the upmost competence…

… But, I’m struggling to love this thing, and part of it is just that nothing truly gets up there and stands out. I was listening to this album on my phone, and for the fun of it, I decided to just, at random, start skipping through tracks and skipping ahead to different parts of the songs, and it was a weirdly fluid experience. It never felt like I was for sure jumping from one song to the next. It’s not that the songwriting is lazy by any stretch, there just isn’t anything that necessarily has the spark you can find so easily on any of these guys’ past creative outputs.

I’m not calling this a flop by any means – there’s enough convincingly pulled off  Death or Malevolent Creation-inspired Floridian death metal sprinkled throughout to please the purists, and there’s certainly enough combined elements here to give any metalhead who lived through the various American “core” scenes of the mid-2000s a dose of warm nostalgia. And it’s not like these guys take advantage of their pedigree to overstay their welcome – this record comes in, hits you in the mouth, and gets out again just as quickly, and without a fuss. So in that regard, you could say this record pulled off what it was intended to… I guess? It’s fine.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
May 29th, 2020

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