1. Woke Up Swallowing Blood 2. To See The Invisible Man 3. Control Panel 3 4. Everything I Know About Sex I Learned Watching Porno 5. Abednego Through The Flames, Unscathed2002 Purity Records
by John C.
Locked In A Vacancy (LIAV) returns with a five-song EP, "Ethos," following its 2001 debut full-length "Exit The Futility Ward" for Purity Records. Despite seeing this band numerous times in the New York City (they're possibly one of the hardest working bands in the area), sitting down and listening to "Ethos" was a first-time experience hearing the band on record. I quickly learned that the group is relatively versatile in a number of aggressive musical styles. For those unfamiliar with the unit's sound, LIAV play chaotic metalcore that mixes tech-metal, thrash, mosh, and a bit of melody. LIAV has a penchant for playing or mixing a variety of musical genres. As a result, there can be countless numbers of transitions at times, especially in the opening track "Woke Up Swallowing Blood." The song starts off with some brief noise, but it quickly turns into a mixture of discordant riffs, tech-metal leads, and rhythmic shifts, somewhat suggestive of As The Sun Sets (but maybe less technical). Before you can even adjust to the new groove, the breakdown, mixed with harmonics and chaotic guitar lines, breaks through. The music then moves quickly from palm-muted finger picking, to some nice, melodic dual guitar work that drives. The use of off-time signatures, breakdowns, and cacophonic riffs make up the rest of the song. "To See The Invisible Man" has somewhat of an old-school thrash feel. But it also has its fair share of tech-metal dissonance, rapid riffing, and breakdowns. Meanwhile, the third cut, "Control Panel 3," is an instrument/noise track. Sporadic guitar, distant voices, and pulsating noises highlight a backdrop of eerie atmospheric sound. The song, which runs about two and a half minutes, closes with looping effects. "Everything I Know About Sex I Learned By Watching Porno" is a departure from the constant crunch and metal initially, as it opens with clean melodic guitars and percussion. The vocals remain throaty and yelled, however, through the segment. Things get heavier and a bit more complex, as distortion is implemented and guitar leads grow in intricacy, respectively. There are even some brief solos thrown in for good measure. The final song, "Abednego Through The Flames, Unseathed," has some urgency to it, starting off with some lead guitar work and single-note, Gothenburg-style picking. Interchanging palm-muted riffs, strumming, and harmonics are used to accentuate the heavy breakdowns. Appropriately, the vocals adjust to spoken word, from growls, to complement the calmer segues. Everything closes with an extended breakdown. But things don't end here. Following the song is a lengthy firefight sample from a war movie ("Saving Private Ryan"), as well as a hidden cover of "The Trooper" by Iron Maiden (a crowd pleaser on the several occasions I've seen them). Musically, LIAV definitely can write some interesting material, whether it is melodic or tech-metal, to noise or thrash. Songs can charm you with their catchy melodies and then quickly appeal to your mosh sensibilities. In terms of the recording, it exhibits a rawness that gives the album what one could consider a more-authentic feel to it. It's not polished, and you could probably go as far and say that it's a metal record that has a "punk" vibe. The mix of the EP is adequate with all its levels relatively even. But for all the positives, there are some detractors that should be noted. As mentioned above, LIAV transitions from style to style both between and within songs. For all their solid song writing ability, it almost seems as if there are too many parts at times. That's not to say that they should be formulaic and unoriginal. Mixing styles eventually takes a toll on the shifts between segments, as it is difficult to make smooth switches between parts, especially when they can be quite different. The tightness of the music can also be improved a bit. There are points where the dual guitar hooks sound a bit off, but this may be attributed to the production not being excessively slick. Perhaps a slight step upward in production, combined with some adjustments in certain instruments (the drums could be crisper or fuller), would prove beneficial. Lyrically, the songs are divided between to major themes: observations or commentary about our society and its culture, and personal struggles and perseverance. Given the record's lyrical content, "Ethos" (The character or attitude peculiar to a specific culture or group) is an appropriate title. Although the layout of the record may somewhat convey Locked In A Vacancy's message or emotion, the unit could have really created and arranged something more visually representative of "Ethos," and its lyrics, ultimately providing deeper meaning. Bottom Line: A solid effort by this up-and-coming band. If Locked In The Vacancy makes some minor adjustments, such as smoothening out its transitions while retaining its unique sound and style (in other words, keep things interesting, but avoid generic, formulaic metalcore), as well as stepping up recording production values, it would definitely work to their favor. Nevertheless, fans of chaotic metalcore with a blend of tech-metal et al should enjoy this EP.
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