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Stoneburner: Life Drawing

The cover art by J. J. Shirey on this one is rough, indeed. It shows a guy, bent in half, lying in what looks like a makeshift hospital bed. Dead or alive, this man is a model of suffering, the kind that ravages the body and offers no reprieve. Entitled Life Drawing, the cover is as bleak as I've seen lately. To my eyes, it's a statement about the tragic nature of life, the fact that no human being may ever be completely happy in life. Harsh as they are, such reminders are somehow comforting; a strange acknowledgment that isn't always pleasant or easy.

I suppose the same kinds of things can be said about this album. Before I do that, however, I want to point out that this is largely good material. Unlike other self-proclaimed brutal metal albums, this one may actually be enjoyed by the listener. No, it's not easy listening; it is, however, good extreme metal, the kind that I think some fans will enjoy.

I like this album because of its changing moods. It isn't a relentless onslaught on the senses; instead, it toys around with a variety of ideas, including the occasional softer tone. Those who listen to this album will quickly recognize it as a genuinely creative act with extreme styles of music. I'm not sure what kinds of experiences the lyrics are based on, but the promo materials tell me that one of the dominant themes here deals with "the struggle to be a decent person in a world that keeps doing its best to cause you not to be." Such difficulty can be creative stuff, especially when one finds inner resources of strength and resolve, the kind of mettle that moves forward despite what everyone else is doing. Whatever their actual intentions, I think the band members are trying to capture the simultaneous movements of despair and joy that come from trying to get life right. No, it can't be done perfectly; but it can be attempted. Maybe that's why the closing track—"The Phoenix"—is just perfect. Rising from the ashes, a phoenix represents new life and new opportunities. I like that idea. The track, surprisingly mellow, points to that hope and says that life goes on, no matter how rough.

As I wrote above, this album has changing moods. It isn't the adolescent rage of other kinds of metal. Instead, it's more realistic anger—a musical offering about real despair and doubt, but the kind that understands there will be moments of hope, even of triumph. I may be stressing the positive here a bit much—remember the bleak album cover—but I don't think I'm too far off the mark. Music can be despairing and hopeful at the same time. For a good example, check out "Done," one of the best tracks on this album. It's haunting, ugly, and wonderful. Give this one a spin but prepare for an exhausting journey, one that simply can't get to "The Phoenix" until accepting that, yes, "You Are the Worst."

Track Listing:
1. Some Can
2. Caged Bird
3. Drift
4. An Apology to a Friend in Need
5. Pale New Eyes
6. Giver of Birth
7. Done
8. You are the Worst
9. The Phoenix

Added: May 7th 2014
Reviewer: Carl Sederholm
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 1399
Language: english

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