A Bullet For Pretty Boy – Symbiosis
Record Label: Artery Recordings / Razor & Tie
Release Date: July 31st, 2012
Texas trio A Bullet For Pretty Boy is a band I’ve never really paid much attention to. I’ve liked them for awhile, but their debut record Revision:Revise didn’t do much for me when it was released in 2010. I listened to it a few times, and was ultimately bored. It was a generic metalcore/post-hardcore with a few redeeming moments to me, and it left a lot to be desired. On 2012’s Symbiosis, they don’t completely reinvent their sound, but there is something a little different. The main thing is what I call “ambience.” Most metalcore/post-hardcore bands only focus on breakdowns, and trying to be as heavy as they can without putting any passion into their music. Ultimately, it all sounds the same, and there’s nothing you can take from it. Symbiosis goes a step further, and has a lot of softer parts, or ambient parts, some of which are instrumental. It’s a delicate balance, but it still works. While they don’t reinvent the genre by any means, this is a pretty interesting record. This is also one of those records where you have to listen to it more than once to really understand it. Earlier this year, Hands Like Houses released their debut record Ground Dweller (on Rise Records), and it was a record that was wonderfully executed, but it was rather confusing, because a lot was going on in it. It required more than a single listen to really understand it. The same can be said for Symbiosis. To say this is a generic record is understating it. Another thing that interests me is the fact they are a Christian band and aren’t ashamed to admit that. I have no problem with bands like them, and a lot of Christian metalcore bands still thrive today, such as For Today, The Devil Wears Prada, and Underoath. These bands aren’t overly preachy, but still do include Christianity in their lyrics. It may turn off some people, but if you’re someone who focuses on music itself, that may not a problem for you.
Symbiosis starts off with the first single “Red Medic,” and as far as opening tracks go, this is a pretty strong track. It starts off on a heavy note with vocalist Danon Saylor. He’s not the best vocalist I’ve ever heard, but they aren’t bad, either. His clean vocals are rather impressive. The track itself is probably one of the heaviest tracks on the record. It’s a nice way to start things off, but this isn’t one of the best tracks, either. However, there are a few ambient parts within the song. While this isn’t the best track on the record, it does provide the listener with a “preview” of what the record is all about, and what ABFP are all about. That’s not to say every song sounds the same, but there’s not too much variety. The ambience does keep some variety, but it doesn’t completely hold up.
Right from the start, on “Red Medic,” it’s clear that guitarist Chris Johnston can play. It seems to me that he strays from the cliché metalcore breakdowns, and while there’s nothing too original, there aren’t a lot of “chug-chug-chug” breakdowns on here. There are some, but they’re not overbearing or drag on. There is a nice contrast between the heavy and soft. Keyboardist Josh Modisette provides the softer part of the contrast, but he keeps it pretty straightforward with the keys. Most metalcore bands often use keys obnoxiously, but this is one band that doesn’t let that get in the way.
Third track “Come Clean” is one of the longer songs on the record, and while it’s rather generic, there is an ambient part towards the end I really like. The last minute and a half of the song suddenly slows down. It’s rather interesting, and it’s where the ambient part comes up. The “ambient” parts remind me of Oceana a bit. Right after that, “White Noise” is another “heavier” song and it’s one of the best songs on the record. Saylor’s vocals are extremely aggressive on this track, but his cleans do come through to provide more of that contrast I keep referring to. Fifth track “Illumination” is directly after it, and it’s one of those ambient tracks that I was talking about earlier; it’s an instrumental track as well, and it seems to be an interlude, so to speak. It slows down the record briefly, but it lets the listener recover from the pummeling that their ears have endured. It’s one of the best tracks as well. That kind of does say a bit, considering it’s an instrumental, but it has a really cool sound to it.
I absolutely love the first half of this record; there’s a lot of that contrast going on, and it really enticed me. The second half, on the other hand, is where the album starts to slip a bit. Tracks like “The Grateful Prey,” and “Reptilian Tongue,” are rather generic. However, they’re not forgettable, although the former is only a minute long, and seemed rather unnecessary. “De(v)tails” is a rather interesting track, and it’s one of the heaviest tracks on the record, too. The last track “Self-Disclosure” is the longest song on the record, and it’s a nice closing track. It’s much slower, and focuses on Saylor’s clean vocals. It still is slightly heavy, but it stands out from the rest of the record. There’s also a very nice ambient part at the end of the record that I absolutely love. The last two minutes are wonderful.
Overall, this record is a pretty interesting one; it’s the perfect balance between ambient and heavy. There are parts of this record that are absolutely bone crushing, but there are other parts that are just really relaxing. Most bands who do this kind of thing don’t know how to do it well. While this record is still generic, it’s a step up from a lot of the metalcore bands to come out in the last few years. It shows potential, and I think I’ll be keeping up with these guys more.