Between The Wars – Death And The Sea
Release Date: August 7th, 2007
Record Label: Think Fast! Records
With the promising release of Between The Wars’ Less We Believe EP, the New Jersey metal quartet had some convincing to do when writing their debut full length. Death and the Sea marks this milestone for the band, and packing 16 tracks into 40 minutes, it certainly doesn’t lack ambition or enough material to demonstrate their sound. What it does lack is the cohesiveness to make it stand out amongst the crowds of bands attempting to fuse hardcore and metal. After multiple listens to the album, I am torn between really enjoying the music at times and at others well…feeling like I’ve heard it before.
With one member of the band formerly in Thursday and another in Ensign, one would expect a much different sound from Between The Wars. The heavy guitars are about the furthest thing from Thursday you could expect with guitarist Bill Henderson taking the spotlight on the album and providing some pretty impressively metallic moments. “The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing” demonstrates a serious understanding of the fretboard. The leads are unique and evoke an urgency rarely seen in this genre of music while remaining eerily catchy at the same time. In fact, these intricate guitar lines are weaved throughout the entire album, which musically is rarely boring. An aspect that took away from the music at points is the drumming. Drummer Paul Colucci sounds as if he is trying too hard to keep up with the vision set forth by the other members of the band. This makes fast sections lack any kind of groove, sounding almost like a band practicing in a basement. The rawness could be an endearing quality for some, but it might not hold water in ears of kids weaned on Pro-Tools precision. It’s not terrible by any means (and at times Colucci locks in with the band in perfect, tasteful harmony), it’s just noticeable due to how tight the rest of the band sounds.
The vocals are exactly what you have come to expect from Ensign vocalist Tim Shaw, who also fronts Between The Wars. His voice is one that you either love or hate. If you love it, then Death and the Sea will be a treat, however if you are on the other end of the spectrum, then this album isn’t going to change your mind. His high-pitched vocals are energetic and fit the music, but by the time the album gets to the midway point, they just start to blend together. There is little variation in delivery or tonal quality, which I found to be one of the weakest aspects of the album, but hey, this is punk rock. The vocals suit his crashing band mates but often sound uninspired and way too similar to those the song that proceeded it. That seems to be a common theme throughout the disc, both musically and vocally. There are some genuinely great parts that stand out, but a lot of “the same” has to be waded through to get to these excellent moments. Just when I think my attention is lost, a technical riff is played just long enough to keep my attention until the next interesting part. From the crushing guitars to the frantic vocals, Death And The Sea has all the things that would make a great metal release. The pieces to the puzzle are there, they just don’t seem to fit together tight enough to stand out. Energetic, at times brilliant, but at others repetitive, Between The Wars debut full length leaves something to be desired, but if you are looking for something to please your straight forward metal needs during the waning summer months, throw aside your expectations and give them a shot.