The fact that The Browning haven’t been inundated with the same bile as their electro-deathcore peers is genuinely surprising. Granted, any band that’s lived with the name The Browning for over a decade deserves some degree of leeway, but musically, they’ve never really elevated themselves beyond the averageness that a shocking amount of deathcore tends to fall into, and that’s a best-case scenario. At least with contemporaries in their circles like Emmure and We Butter The Bread With Butter, it’s difficult for them to look any worse, but that’s hardly grounds for elevating a B-tier band into the spotlight, and given that they’ve never really produced anything themselves that warrants such praise, it’s hard to see what they hope to achieve four albums in. It’s not impossible to make a swift, sharp U-turn at this point, but from past evidence, it’s certainly improbable.
It’s not like Geist is doing anything to buck against that improbability either, particularly when this feels like an album that would’ve been released in 2013 to middling reception, let alone now. It’s not even that it’s terrible either, more boring and outdated in almost every conceivable way that altogether averages out as a fat-filled slab of electro-metal that gets more tedious with every listen. For comparison, just look at Crossfaith and how sharp and refined their electronic elements are; they’re playing in a similarly unfashionable medium, but they do it with such a sense of vibrancy and gusto that it’s easy to get swept up in the sheer riotousness of it all. Now look back at The Browning, whose general game plan seems to be how heavy and lumbering they can be before piping any remaining space with glitchy synths and club drops that wouldn’t have been out of place in most crunkcore songs. There’s a lack of cogency that makes it difficult to know what The Browning actually want to be; they play around with EDM euphoria on Amnesia and Carnage (as well as wrenching a rap verse into the latter), but the self-seriousness that’s everywhere else feels completely mismatched. The aim is clearly for an air of heavy, portentous menace, and while the deathcore guitars and breakdowns feel suitably calamitous and heavy, slathering it all in ugly synth tones guts the impact and, in all honesty, can just feel faintly embarrassing.
And of course, what bad electro-metal album would be complete without some equally bad production, of which Geist goes out of its way to flaunt and show off how little texture it actually has. The base, carnal heft of a track like Hellblade can’t be disputed, but it comes from maxing out the volume and pushing the low-end chugs right to the front of the mix, presumably for the illusion of some destructive presence that’s really only there because of how loud and cluttered this really is. At least there are moments of modulation – regardless of how brief – that drop back for some calmer synth passages, but when the additional electronics then proceed to be crammed into the main instrumental, pushing it even further forward within the mix, the result is a horrible buzz that lacks any real melody or flow, and is just broken up at intervals of every few minutes to make up something resembling a tracklist. It becomes a real chore remarkably fast, and without anything of note to differentiate one track from another besides Carnage’s rap and the German vocals from We Butter The Bread With Butter’s Paul Bartzsch on the title track (what a paragon of quality that is…), there’s nothing further to really say about it.
It’s not as if The Browning won’t once again appeal to any previous fans either; for anyone looking for a new dose of mosh fodder, you could do better but this will still suffice. But when a band like this is four albums in, it’s not wishful thinking to hope that they might have actually evolved over time, instead of stagnating in trends that faded away nearly half a decade ago. And that’s ultimately where Geist’s main issues lie; for the most part, metalcore and deathcore this year have shown some real improvements in moving away from their regimented norms and into areas that can be a bit more experimental, but The Browning have just ignored all of that, instead tailoring their sound to guarantee a slot on an Impericon tour for another year. Maybe there’s something to that, but it’s incredibly difficult to see what it might be.
For fans of: We Butter The Bread With Butter, Attila, Oceano
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Geist’ by The Browning is out now on Spinefarm Records.