As You Left – Silver Chains Golden Veins


German quintet, As You Left, formed in 2013 as a metalcore band and released two EPs in 2014 and 2018. Like all self-conscious artists, they realised that their current sound could not survive the zeitgeist at the end of the last decade. Something had to give, so they started listening to more extreme forms of metal. The result is a debut album with a new purpose after five years of inertia. As You Left will resist those who believe that metalcore is irrelevant these days. What about if it changes its coding and incorporates black metal into its CPU?

They’re not the first, and they won’t be the last to inject metalcore with a strong dose of malevolence, but it’s clear that the Lower Saxony outfit feel invigorated by their redesign. The tick-tock of a clock and a melancholy sequence of piano bass notes set the scene for a solemn military snare to introduce the painful guitar chords of opening song, ‘Oblivion’. It’s only natural for a dissonant whirl of black metal to emerge, yet the Germans find it easy to work a drop-tuned burst of syncopated riffing into their cauldron. An advanced rhythmic assault forms from this posturing with one axe playing the intricate thrash riffs on the middle strings and the other bruising you with the bass in pursuit. Here, Fabian Juch’s vocals project their power like a soldier with mustard gas in his throat. There’s even a chorus to chant, and it doesn’t annoy you with weak melodies. That alone is a triumph for metalcore.

The vitriolic energy is the greatest asset of this album, but the band do little to operate outside this emotional monopoly of being. ‘Blades Turning’ is Killswitch Engage with gory vocal abrasions. Guitars filter through your neck in coordinated violence and offer a welcome contrast between the chugging drop-tuned shapes and the technical patterns playing the higher frequencies. The attempt to insert a sorrowful rumination into the backing vocals of the chorus exposes one of the biggest cliches of metalcore. At the Gates are a clear influence on this band and millions of other artists in this paradigm. There’s a youthful exuberance to this music, but As You Left feel obliged to make a generational statement about individual alienation in songs like ‘Surrender’ and ‘In the Deep’. Musically, this would be a suitable direction for Arch Enemy to explore on their next record.

Metalcore with death metal vocals and neo-classical shredding is the default setting for most of the songs on Silver Chains Golden Veins. Often, you’ll find a snarling groove and a clever use of black metal tremolos in the transitions. Sometimes, these warrant a thumb of appreciation. Ringing fifth chords and elaborate guitar harmonies converge onto an atonal black metal sequence in ‘Illuminate’, yet the crisp drums and dual vocals present an easy-to-digest piece of melancholia. The melodic riffs are predictable, but the high-energy rhythms engage you like the headlights of an oncoming vehicle. By contrast, the chord choices in ‘Laws of the Ancient’ are uglier than a marine of dead molluscs. You want to purge your heart of negativity, but your mind won’t allow it.

Metalcore formulas conspire to work against this band like an addiction that cannot be contained. ‘Throne’ and ‘Indifference’ are innocuous enough to make your mind wander, which is quite an achievement in a genre that’s famous for its high levels of energy and urgency. ‘March of the Sinners’ would be a standard In Flames assault if not for the malevolent vocals and sharp syncopation. The sombre bassline and moody chord picking in ‘Lost Dreams’ give the drummer a chance to insert his fills before the band members settle on a mid-tempo crunch of heroic guitar harmonising. Imagine Orbit Culture covering Killswitch Engage if you need to apply logic to it.

The focus on moving metalcore towards harsher pastures should be applauded, but forty-two minutes of this aesthetic is too long to sustain your interest. The band step up the ferocity of their blackened death metal liberation from metalcore’s worst cliches in closing track, ‘Malevolent Deceit’. This is more like it, but the impact diminishes when you’ve sat through ten songs of a similar nature.

As You Left worship At the Gates and In Flames. It should come as no surprise that their music suffers from predictability as much as it dazzles you with new ideas for a genre on life support.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 15/12/2023

Record Label: Self-released

Standout tracks: Oblivion, Illuminate, Laws of the Ancient

Suggested Further Listening: The Ember, the Ash – Fixation (2021), Laang – Riluo (2023), Mental Cruelty – Zwielicht (2023)