Deathcore has quickly become the new metalcore, and it’s not far from bursting at the seams. It seems as if every day, a new act gets together and starts trying to make a name for themselves in the genre. And why shouldn’t they? It’s the current best of all worlds brutal, giving the hardcore kids a dance routine on one hand and the metal heads a death/grind riff parade on the other. At the same time, inevitability and glam metal have taught us that all trends can only blow up so much before they become black holes and collapse in on themselves. While Reflections, the second LP from North Carolina moshers Seneca, is not a bad album in any respect, it does its small part to contribute to this effect.
Seneca have put together a particularly moshy effort in Reflections, and it shows right from the get-go. In fact, the only actual playing in the opening track, “Optical”, is a mosh part that serves as the starting riff for track two. “Palehorse” proves to be a very good model of what the rest of the album has to offer. Leading the composition are blast beats and death metal guitar wails, followed by a fairly typical open-chord breakdown, and it’s all proceeded by a melodic clean sing-along in a minor tone. It’s this structure, which seems to have become a deathcore standard (minus maybe the clean singing), that does the most harm throughout this album (and to the genre in general). The music does not sound bad by any means, but it lacks the innovation required to give a 2009 album its staying power.
It must be noted that Seneca do manage to be amazingly catchy in short bursts. Some of the riffs were very tasty indeed, and it would be a disservice to completely write them off as “just another deathcore band”. They effectively produce the moderate grind sound that tends to draw me in the most, and there’s a semi-healthy amount of melodies. The mosh parts are especially moshy, and while some of them may seem a bit generic, there were more than a few that were home runs. “Names And Faces” comes to mind as the best example, as the opening multi-stage homage to mosh is one of the better undertakings of this sort in recent history. The most noteworthy aspect is Nathan Thomas on drums, as he is a perfect match for the band. I felt that he was always playing exactly what was necessary, never trying to be overly technical when it wasn’t fitting, but hammering out blast beats and seamlessly transitioning into breakdowns when required. Corey Spencer is also a very effective vocalist, belting out excellent mid-to-low screams, and even periodically venturing to the fringe of pop-punk/emo-esque clean-singing. I thought this was an interesting choice, and it was made even more intriguing by the fact that it didn’t suck: his singing never came across as whiny, a miraculous feat indeed.
There were a couple of tracks that didn’t exactly feel at home, however. “Illusions” sounds like it could have been a b-side off of Silverchair’s Neon Ballroom, which definitely made me a do a double-take. The title and closing track is acoustic, and while it was not horrible musically, it also managed to feel slightly out of place. The reason for this is that, aside from a few moments of clean singing, this album is relatively heavy. Seneca may not have the most rigid sound in the genre, but these two songs seemed like they would have been way more at home on a Between The Buried And Me record than on Reflections, and they fit in with the tracks they’re surrounded by about as much as Mother Teresa at a Deicide show. The other negative thing that needs to go on record is the quality of the recording. It’s not a total failure, but the mix is far from perfect. Things are definitely a bit muddy, and while this doesn’t completely ruin the experience, it does manage to leave its mark.
In the end, Seneca is just a couple steps up from being another face in the crowd. Reflections is an album that’s entirely listen-able, but the turbulent sea that is the deathcore genre has a lot of similar records already swimming in it. Four years ago, this album would have been totally killer, but in this day and age, it’s just moderately above average. At any rate, they show they have what it takes to make good music, and that black hole hasn’t exactly come to fruition just yet, so we might as well enjoy them while we can.
03. Black Gold
07. The 29th Day
09. Your Heart In My Hands
10. Names And Faces