For All I Am – Skinwalker
Record Label: Equal Vision
Release Date: January 22nd 2013
Sometimes life works in mysterious ways; I went to look for a physical copy of Chicago metalcore band For All I Am’s debut record Skinwalker at Best Buy, and I couldn’t find one. I came home to find that they were only releasing it in certain stores and my local store didn’t have it. I came to find that Absolutepunk.net needed it to be reviewed, so I jumped at the chance to review this record, and here I am today. I definitely wanted a physical copy, so I’m very grateful to have the chance to review this CD. So, with that being said, what do I think about it? Well, For All I Am is a band that I’ve been meaning to get into more for awhile, and while I don’t listen to a lot of metalcore anymore, this is a band that was on my radar, and for good reason. While this band does succumb to clichés, there are a lot of moments on this record that do have a lot of potential, so it’s really worth listening to. And I don’t say that about a lot of metalcore / post-hardcore records anymore, because not many of them capture my attention. This one, however, really does. The only problem is, it’s still littered with unnecessary and generic breakdowns, as most records of the genre have, sadly. While there are a few moments that show potential, it’s a bit more generic. That’s forgivable to a degree, because it’s their debut record, so they have plenty of time to improve. Despite the generic aspects, they are forgivable, as I mentioned, and the record actually has an interesting concept behind it; harsh vocalist Aria Yavarinejad says that the record’s title Skinwalker has a double meaning. He says that, “A lot of the lyrics I wrote are based around the idea of a person seeming like someone they’re not. Our drummer Aaron (Martinez) brought up the word skin-walker one day, and I immediately thought of using it as a way to explain those kind of people that you can’t tell who they are or what they are, and everything they do or say is deceiving. And we also apply it in a second way on the album, pushing people to be want they want to be and whatever they desire.” For a genre that lacks a lot of creativity and inventiveness, this record is something of a breath of fresh air.
The record begins with “For Too Long I’ve Let It Haunt Me,” which is a mouthful, but don’t let that fool you. As far as opening tracks go, this isn’t the best I’ve ever heard, but it gets the job done. It’s a pretty generic track, because it’s essentially a four-minute metalcore chugfest, but the vocals are pretty solid throughout, minus the really annoying clean chorus (which this album has a lot of, but while they’re generic, they’re not too bad). Their clean vocalist isn’t awful, but he’s nothing special, either. Their screamer Yavarinejad is definitely something to marvel at. Despite the instrumentation on this track being a bit of a chugfest, the instrumentation is still rather solid for part of it. If you look past the breakdowns, the musicianship is really solid all through this record. As for this track, it’s not the best, but still works, nonetheless. Next track “Make History” actually starts off with clean vocalist (and guitarist)’s Chase Wagster, and like I said, his vocals are alright, but they’re still quite generic. This song is much better, though; there aren’t any breakdowns in this track, but some very aggressive instrumentation and guitar riffage that does get the job done. Lyrically, the first couple tracks so far have been pretty interesting, and really have kept the themes that I spoke about earlier in the review. Both themes really show up, and it’s nice. Of course with every unique song on a metalcore record, you’ve got some forgettable ones as well. Third track “Oppressor” really doesn’t do much for me, even though it is rather enjoyable. It does feature some interesting electronics in the bridge, but that’s really it. It does suffer from genericore tendencies, and essentially, this is forgivable, because it is their debut record. In fact, the whole middle of the record really kind of just suffers from that. I mean, here and there are moments that really do something for me, and one track that is rather unique is eighth track “I, Artificial,” which starts off quite melodic and is one of the only tracks that doesn’t have too many breakdowns in it; it has a couple, but they don’t distract from the song. The instrumentation is actually a bit interesting on this track as well. Next track “Limbo” is my favorite track on this record, hands down. This is the only track that doesn’t have any breakdowns, and in fact, it’s not even heavy at all. It’s very interesting, because it’s so different. I wish there could’ve been more songs like this on the album, but one song is still good, nonetheless. It’s a very experimental song, and I really like it, because it’s so stripped down. It doesn’t slow the album down at all, however. It just brings a different side to the band, and I really like this. Next song “Forgotten” picks up right where the heavier songs left off, and it doesn’t even take a breath. Last track “The Strange Daze” is the longest song on the record at 4-and-a-half-minutes, and this is a pretty good album closer. It’s aggressive, except for the last minute or so. It ends on a rather quiet note, which is what I was hoping for. It works nicely, and it ends with a lasting impression.
With all of that being said, this album is a nice burst of metalcore. It’s about 38 minutes, which is a good length for a record like this. There’s not too much uniqueness here, but there aren’t a lot of unnecessary chug chug breakdowns, which is nice to see. They show up now and again, but briefly. The middle of the record is rather “boring,” in the sense that the songs do kind of run together, but they’re still enjoyable, nonetheless. That’s my overall feelings on this album – every song on here is quite enjoyable, but it all tends to run together, except for the song “Limbo,” which is totally different from the rest of the record, because it’s not heavy whatsoever. I like that song because it is the standout track. In a way, I wish they would’ve closed the album with it, because it would’ve left a lasting impression, because it’s such a different track, even if the album does end on a nice note literally. Overall, this is a good record to pick up if you are into metalcore, and in my case, I don’t listen to the genre music, but bands like these interest me, because they do attempt something different, and it works to some degree. I will be following this band more in the future because I liked what I heard.