Given the turbulence that’s afflicted After The Burial for the absolute longest time, it’s a wonder they’re still going as strong as they are. Multiple lineup shuffles are one thing, but the heartbreaking circumstances around former guitarist Justin Lowe’s death in 2015 has been something that’s lasted with them, especially looming over the release of their album Dig Deep just a few months later. And yet, it speaks to After The Burial’s strength and resilience that they’ve been able to pull themselves out of such a low point and persevere; they’ve never had the enormous levels of success and primetime exposure as some of their Sumerian labelmates, but they’ve often displayed a consistency that’s enormously admirable in their music, to the point where that’s become something of a deciding factor leading up to sixth full-length Evergreen. It helps that lead single Behold The Crown was resplendent with the tech-death savagery that this band have made their own, but if there was ever a time for years of talent and good will to crystallise into something remarkable, it would be now with Evergreen.
And even if this album doesn’t quite reach those heights, it’s not a case of not trying. After The Burial are not a band to rest on their laurels, and that’s made clear once again on Evergreen, an album once again pushing a technicality into melodic death metal that’s become so synonymous with this band, yet remains the visceral, pinpoint-precise thrill it’s always been. In other words, it’s another After The Burial album, and while that’s in no way to the detriment of Evergreen’s quality, an album bearing hallmarks that have remained virtually untouched for years at this point, regardless of how good they are, is going to struggle to push forward into unequivocal greatness, and that’s pretty much what’s on show here.
As it stands it doesn’t make for the most difficult album to talk about, a fact that’s rather ironic considering how, even in tech-metal, After The Burial’s progressive sound continues to stand head and shoulders above so many in terms of melding technicality with bloody-minded brutality and melody. There’s a leanness to this album, not only because it’s only nine tracks long, but because the production doesn’t let an inch of fat slip to the point where the metallic sheen that feels like a crutch for so many similar albums is an integral element here. In Flux might be the longest track at six minutes, but between stampeding djent wizardry and Anthony Notarmaso vicious vocal performance, there’s still a sense of punch and scope that work with each other rather than against, to the point where the extended atmospheric outro feels justified rather than being artificial bulk. And really, six albums in, that’s more or less par for the course at this point, and with tracks like Exit, Exist and Respire sticking pretty closely to that format with just enough flourishes to keep interesting, it’s certainly not a boring retread in the way that so many other bands adhere to. It’s definitely familiar, and if there was a case to be made for why the cap on this album is placed where it is, it would be that, but there’s nothing cynical about an album like this. From the instrumentation to the writing, it doesn’t feel like After The Burial are consciously recycling their own legacy, and when that’s such an easy option to take up, it’s refreshing to see them refrain from it.
Of course, it’d be easy to leave any analysis as ‘it’s an After The Burial album’ and be done, but Evergreen does stand out in a way that would make such glibness hugely unfair. After all, this isn’t a rehashed vanity project by any means, and when there’s just enough of a spin on the traditional formula to keep it interesting yet instantly recognisable, that’s the sign of a strong band with longevity under their belts. For now though, this isn’t quite the top-tier release that this band are capable of, but consistency can arguably be more key in a case like this, and After The Burial are quickly proving to be amongst the most consistent metal bands around.
For fans of: The Contortionist, Born Of Osiris, Within The Ruins
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Evergreen’ by After The Burial is released on 19th April on Sumerian Records.